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The feeling of déjà vu is something that an estimated two thirds of human being have experienced. That feeling that you’ve lived through your current surroundings and circumstances at a point in time before or that things are eerily like a past event.

“A glitch in the Matrix” is how a generation of that grew up through the late 90’s came to know it by, in reference to the film of the same name. There are a lot of theories as to why people experience it at all. With no definite proof of any one or series of causes, some believe that it is caused by minor brain circuitry errors, delaying the recording of your senses in your memory. Some think that déjà vu is caused by a phenomenon called Split Perception where your peripheral senses have already started to form memories of your experiences at a given moment prior to you diverting your focus to them. There are many other theories but the one I’m currently running with as my theory as to why Irish people are currently experiencing déjà vu is entirely down to NPHET and the current surge in case numbers.

Yes, unfortunately, after a blissful few months where the pandemic was merely something mentioned in passing in this column, it’s back again to take centre stage. First thing is first, all members of NPHET need to immediately be banned from muttering the phrase, “The next two weeks are vital”. The phrase has lost all meaning and impact and merely elicits an exhausted eyeroll from anyone that hears it. Secondly, someone badly needs to teach Dr. Tony Holohan and co about humility. The act of putting your hands up and saying ‘I got it wrong’ would go a long way to engaging an already Covid worn-out public.

Nevertheless, the good Doctor and his pals remain wedded to the line “schools are a safe environment”, despite the irrefutable data they themselves publish which tells the opposite story. NPHET had produced outbreak reports to back up their assertion, but we have since learned that these reports were, in a sense, doctored to make schools look better than they possible are. By simply refusing to entertain that a kid got Covid in their school and there, must have picked it up at home (where they have likely already infected a parent, sibling someone else in the house), it was easy to classify the issue as being general community transmission rather than one of schools acting as petri dishes for Covid. I must hold my hands up and say I was wrong. I went along with this assessment for quite some time myself until I drilled down into the figures. But don’t get me wrong, please do not whip your kids out of school just yet (unless they have symptoms in which absolutely do!).

The latest epidemiological report for Ireland over the past 14 days showed that kids make up 27.2% of all new cases. Yet this cohort only represent 6.2% of all hospitalisations. The risks to your kids are low in terms of Covid, but Government, and more to the point their NPHET advisors, need to address this current driver of infections in Ireland. Ventilation in schools, better usage of pods and masks, antigen testing even once a week of a Sunday for each child and a return of proper contact tracing are all vital.

However, in order to sanction such moves, NPHET needs first to admit that it got it wrong and gave the Cabinet bad advice. Schools are no safer than any other setting in which people congregate and as such, require monitoring to improve safety for kids, their parents and their teachers.

That said, whereas the current wave can be tracked back to the decision to stop contact tracing from schools, it isn’t sick kids that are proving a problem for our hospitals. At least 93% of over 18’s are vaccinated, a figure that’s likely higher than 95% when all those vaccinated outside of the 26 counties are taken into account. Yet, that said, 54% of all cases in ICU at the time of writing come from this tiny 5% portion of the population. This means that an unvaccinated person is roughly 20 times more likely to end up in ICU than a vaccinated person.

What’s even more astounding is that vaccination rates amongst the risk groups of the elderly and medically vulnerable are 99.9% (virtually 100% given the number who cannot medically be vaccinated), meaning of the unvaccinated, those ending up in ICU are from the lower risk, younger groups. These people should not in hospital, occupying some 70 ICU beds that are badly needed for cancer and transplant patients and victims of accidents. Get the vaccine if you haven’t. Save someone’s life, maybe even your own.

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