Opinion: Parents need to stop with the Covid hysteria – our kids deserve normality now 2 weeks ago

Opinion: Parents need to stop with the Covid hysteria – our kids deserve normality now

"There were literally messages being sent around advising parents to tell their kids not to play with my six-year-old."

Earlier week, as the HSE finally got around to changing the contact tracing rules for children in school, most of us were relieved. It was – in my opinion – about time healthy, symptom-free kids were yanked out of school automatically just because someone else in their class had tested positive for Covid-19.

I mean; come on – at one point, a couple of weeks back, as many as 12 000 children across Ireland were out of school simply because they were deemed a close contact – with, of course, the vast, vast majority of these children being perfectly healthy and not going on to develop any symptoms of this virus themselves.

However, as soon as the changes to contact tracing were announced, the hysteria of some people reared its head – and things took an ugly turn.

Within days of the contact tracing rules changing, parents in schools across the country took it upon themselves to start outing children and families who they suspected had tested positive.

And – unsurprisingly – in the process, people were not only wrongly accused, but things also got so bad that young children were told by parents to avoid playing with certain classmates – sparking a frenzy of drama where teachers and management at some schools had to intervene. And even the HSE felt they had to step in and inform parents there should be no naming and shaming over WhatsApp going on – as they had relaxed the contact tracing rules as clinical data suggested this made sense.

Did parents listen? To this sensible advice? Not by the sound of things.

I actually did not even believe this carry-on was so bad until it happened in a local school and a friend of mine and her children were on the receiving end of the gossip.

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Having kept her senior infant son at home for a few days over hand, foot and mouth disease (which is also doing the rounds these days), she was made aware by another friend in the school that messages were going around saying her son had Covid and wasn't she a right irresponsible mother for still sending her daughter, who is in 4th class, into school.

Shocking? I know.

But then again – we are now living in a world where only a few months ago, single parents were turned away from grocery stores for having their children with them to buy food. Or maybe even worse – abused by other shoppers for having the audacity to try and buy food with their children in tow.

You know – at a time when creches and were closed and one-parent families didn't exactly have the option of leaving children with cocooning grandparents.

And speaking of the treatment of children – let's not forget how at one point, the scare campaign of how kids were 'Super Spreaders' (again – totally non proven and just thrown out there to cause maximum panic and fear) got so bad people would literally cross the street to get away from you if you were out for a walk with children in tow.

My daughter, who was nine during that first lockdown, used to point out how sad it was that nobody would smile at them anymore. And if we met people on the street or in our local park, they would literally act as if they were walking into a minefield just because they were crossing paths with children.

Insanity.

In my opinion, the pandemic really brought out the worst in some – and this relentless horrid treatment of children – closed playgrounds, kept out of school for months on end, no playing with friends, banned from supermarkets, denied celebrations and milestones – and now the naming and shaming over WhatsApp – has been absolutely shocking to watch.

And it's about time we put a total end to it.

With Halloween around the corner, there are already whispers by some about how irresponsible it would be to let children celebrate this fun – and mostly outdoors – tradition.

And this despite the fact that the absolute vast majority of the country is vaccinated against this virus. And that trick or treat-ing mostly happens outside. In the cold, fresh autumn air. And – low and behold – most of the kids are wearing some kind of dress-up mask – and are not in anyone's face.

And yes, I know young children are not vaccinated – but I also know that statistically, they don't get particularly ill from this if they were to catch it. And that the adults around them – at this stage – are fully vaccinated.

Children in many other countries have had their normal back a long time already – and did not even have to endure half of the measure Irish children had in the first place. So is it not about time – and then some – that we give the children of Ireland their normality back? Here's to a Halloween of tricks, treats and fun – because the kids have earned it – and then some.