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Harlow Labour leader still happy to offer Robert Halfon advice on covid and education

Education / Sat 8th Jan 2022 pm31 12:23pm

THE LEADER of Harlow Labour has continued his war of words with Harlow MP Robert Halfon over covid regulations and education.

Councillor Chris Vince said: “It is interesting to see Harlow’s MP pick and choose which of my articles he responds to.  I notice he didn’t have a response to the one about bringing former and retired teachers back into the classroom.  Could it be that, as I predicted, very few former/retired teachers have taken him up on it?  As he pointed out correctly in his letter, I have just come out of self-isolation myself, and as I have already done privately, I publicly wish him well over the next few days and hope that he is on the road to recovery.

I would have hoped that he might recognise the need to do more and not less to stop the spread of the virus and there are no quick fixes to the issues facing schools.  It seems not.

He has included several quotes in his response, many of which are quite vague and one which is by one of his own government’s MPs. It’s interesting that Conservative politicians also pick and choose which experts they listen to and when. 

“I would agree that teaching students wearing masks isn’t an ideal situation but we’re not talking about an ideal situation; we’re talking about teaching, and keeping both teachers and students safe, during a global pandemic.   There are plenty who would say that wearing masks decreases the spread of the virus, in fact there have been studies into it – I notice MP Robert Halfon is not quoting the World Health Organisation. 

However, it’s to his last paragraph, in which Mr Halfon’s own mask truly slips, that I’d like to respond with a quote of my own, from former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”  I write as someone who will always act with the needs of Harlow’s people first and foremost. I am not opposing for opposition’s sake, as accused, but because I am genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of young people and teachers.  

Somewhat laughably, in fact it’s Mr Halfon who is being the opposition  – opposition to his own government’s recommendations.  As I have done throughout this pandemic, I will continue to do what I can to serve my community.  I question, by going against recommendations that are designed to keep people safe and stop the spread of this virus, who Halfon is serving?

Of course, if the Harlow MP feels he needs my advice, then he’s always welcome to it.  Although as always, I would defer to education experts in our town like Vic Goddard (who has previously questioned Halfon’s determination to keep schools open ‘no matter what’ but then be critical of mask wearing).  

Personally, I would be looking at doing everything we can to protect young people and our children. I’d start by providing all the schools with the air purifiers promised, support the government’s own recommendations for mask wearing in schools and recognise that there will be times when schools need to close, hopefully for small periods, should there be an outbreak in the virus. 

“Given that this week has seen record numbers of children in England admitted to hospital with Covid, Mr Halfon’s inflexibility on the subject is of huge concern.  However, to quote a phrase I use very often there is another way.  Give Mr Halfon and his government the boot”.

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4 Comments for Harlow Labour leader still happy to offer Robert Halfon advice on covid and education:

David Hughes
2022-01-09 09:24:20

What a joke. Robert Don't listen to the pratt he's as clueless as the bloke he works for, as are you

Chris Larner
2022-01-09 11:05:35

The thing is, Halfon's stubbornness and general wrong-footedness is not backed either by decency or much intelligence. So much though Chris' advice and honesty is welcomed, I'm afraid it will fall on mule-ish, deaf ears. Halfon has long ago decided (it's what he does: pick a puny little point of pseudo-principle, nail his colours to that cause whilst ignoring the bigger picture. A grumpy, shouty deckchair attendant on the RMS Titanic, if ever there was one) that kids ought to be in school, no matter the danger to them or to school staff. He literally doesn't care if people die, so long as this aim of his is pursued. This is borne out by his wider voting record in Parliament, wherein he has time and time again voted to support the spectacularly incompetent, corrupt leadership of his own party, whose policies have - since the start of the pandemic - been covertly driving towards a mythical "herd immunity" strategy, the very nature of which is that certain people - schoolteachers and children, for example - are expendable.

David Forman
2022-01-09 20:47:29

The World Health Organisation (WHO) published a document on masks last month (22/12/21) which cited two studies, one from Bangladesh and the other Denmark, that conducted trials in use of masks by adults to control Covid-19. One study concluded wearing a mask had a positive effect on reducing symptomatic infection and the other study decided the evidence was inconclusive. However, the inconclusive Danish study was flawed in its methodology. The WHO state: "The study provided an imprecise estimate for mask utilization verse no utilization; however, the study was not designed to evaluate the effectiveness of mask use for source control." See page 9 of link at end of this contribution. As to use of masks by children to control Covid-19 there is limited research, but there is sufficient research on influenza. The WHO state on page 25: "A study of mask wearing during seasonal influenza outbreaks in Japan noted that the use of masks was more effective in higher school grades (grades 4-6, or children aged 9-12 years) than lower grades (grades 1-3, or children aged 6-9 years). One study, conducted under laboratory conditions and using non betacoronaviruses, suggested that children between five and 11 years old were significantly less protected by mask wearing compared with adults, possibly related to the inferior fit of the mask. Other studies found evidence of some protective effect for influenza for both source control and protection in children, although overall compliance with consistent mask wearing, especially among children under the age of 15, was poor." It added on mask wearing compliance: "Some studies, including studies conducted in the context of influenza and air pollution, found the use and acceptability of mask wearing to be highly variable among children, initially ranging from very low to acceptable levels and decreasing over time. One study was carried out among primary school children during COVID-19 and reported 51.6% compliance." The perceptions of teachers to their daily risks is covered on page 28: "As part of the comprehensive school safety strategy for reopening, the views of teachers and educators on the perception of risks and the time burden required to ensure adherence to COVID-19 policies in schools and classrooms – including the use of masks by children – should be considered." The WHO document, titled 'COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control - Living guideline - Mask use in community settings', can be found at: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://apps.who.int/iris/rest/bitstreams/1403813/retrieve&ved=2ahUKEwiXm-qCsaX1AhUGAcAKHQZ4AF4QFnoECCoQAQ&usg=AOvVaw2FGFOkkr19qVpQ_FAeNL44

David Forman
2022-01-09 22:21:49

For those YourHarlow readers, right-wing politicians and journalists still keen to seize on the inconclusive Danish mask wearing study to justify their dislike of COVID restrictions, one should examine the highly critical response to that study from leading academics at the Science Media Centre. Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Health Care Services, University of Oxford and Dr Deepti Gurdasani, Senior Lecturer in Machine Learning, QMUL, said: “We are concerned about aspects of the DANMASK-19 trial and the inaccurate way it is being reported in some press reports. “DANMASK-19 was an unblinded RCT of surgical mask wearing in 6000 people, to test whether masks protect the wearer (the authors did not look at the more important question of source control – whether masks protect other people). Notably, the authors themselves comment: ‘The findings, however, should not be used to conclude that a recommendation for everyone to wear masks in the community would not be effective in reducing SARS-CoV-2 infections, because the trial did not test the role of masks in source control of SARS-CoV-2 infection.’ It is very troubling, therefore, that the press and some policymakers are already interpreting the study as meaning that mask mandates should be abandoned. The study does not support that conclusion." Read other academics hammering the Danish study at: https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-paper-using-an-rct-to-assess-mask-use-as-a-public-health-measure-to-help-control-sars-cov-2-spread-danmask-19/

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