The sense of excitement was palpable among my three children when I told them that trick-or-treating was back on the menu for Halloween this year.
Does this mean that the coronavirus is over?” they asked. Sadly not, I told them. But it does mean that we can start doing some of the ‘fun things’ again.
That’s why my heart sank when I saw Dr Ronan Glynn’s comments about parents needing to cut down on their children’s activities outside school amid a surge in infections in five to 12-year-olds.
It directly contradicts Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s comments last week that stated clearly that children “are not the problem”. He added that children can “enjoy themselves”.
The Indo Daily: Should we vaccinate our children?
It seems like a small comment, almost trite in the wake of such an overwhelmingly terrible 19 months.
But yet, fun is not something that has featured strongly in our children’s lives since the pandemic struck. We know they have been disproportionately affected by the crisis and, as parents, we have done our best to try and shield them from the worst of it. We turn down the radio if the news is particularly bleak and we change the subject if they ask if children can die from Covid.
Slowly, we have inched our way towards normality and, over the past two months, our children have resumed many of their pre-pandemic activities.
Our boys started in their local GAA club and also started scouts, which they love. They have hobbies again – something that has been denied to them over the past 19 months. And that’s been wonderful to see, as the sense of pervasive anxiety slowly starts to seep away.
But what exactly did Dr Glynn mean when he said that parents need to question if children “need to be engaging in everything they are engaging in at a point in time?” Does he mean they should avoid indoor activities, but outdoor activities are fine because the risk is lower? Or did he mean that while trick-or-treating is fine, parents should avoid having large Halloween parties at home?
This kind of mixed messaging is not helpful and only serves to add confusion to what it already an uncertain time. It also harks back to the earliest days of the pandemic when children were wrongly labelled as super-spreaders and vectors and some supermarkets even banned parents from bringing them into the store.
The Irish public has gone above and beyond what other countries have been expected to endure. We had the longest lockdown in Europe, we now have one of the highest vaccination rates at 92pc, and we have to start living with the virus in a sustainable fashion.
Pointing the finger at children, due to the fact that they are unvaccinated, is not helpful and feels like a knee-jerk reaction to a looming crisis.
How about telling all members of the public to start curbing their activities a little over the coming weeks as the numbers in ICU start to rise again, just like in previous periods of our battle with this virus?
Quite rightly, we hear so much about the impact of Covid on adults’ mental-health, but what about our youngsters? Why should they be the first ones thrown under the bus as soon as the case numbers start rising again?
Instead, maybe the Government should look at ramping up its campaign to persuade those unvaccinated to take the jab, given that 58pc of patients in ICU are unvaccinated or only had one dose.
Ireland has just relaxed most of its remaining restrictions and there was always going to be a spike in cases as a result. The cases are currently high in the community, so that’s going to be reflected in a rise of the virus among children too. And of course we should all continue to take precautions and work from home if possible.
But pointing the finger at our children’s actions and activities is neither fair nor reasonable. They don’t get to go to Coppers or gigs in the 3Arena, yet we see no problem in continuing to deny them a normal childhood, free of anxiety.
Surely the only way of protecting against a surge in huge problems in the long run is by offering our kids a meaningful social life rather than dishing out a meaningless Halloween.