What we need to do to protect our children

Education indoors, in combination with the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, means that our children have never before been at more risk of infection and disease. ISAG has published a draft discussion document: “Back to School 2021 – What we need to do to protect our children” to which we welcome comments from all. This paper was discussed at a public meeting and press conference on August 18th.

Read the Full Back to School 2021 Discussion Document (Web-friendly version including summary) >    PDF >

Link to Public Meeting and Press Conference Recording (opens in twitter) >

Earlier discussions on schools:
Recent Press, Podcast appearances and letter to Minister Foley:
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Read our Letter (Aug 19) to Irish Minister for Education, Norma Foley T.D. from Prof. Anthony Staines on behalf of the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group
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Listen to Associate Prof. Tomas Ryan discussing schools with Eamon Dunphy (Aug 25) on The Stand podcast: 'With Masks and Good Ventilation School Reopening is Welcome, Done Badly It's Dangerous' (25th of August) [External Link to Spotify]
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Read opinion by Prof. Aoife McLysaght in the Irish Times (Aug 28): 'We can live with the virus? This is dangerous wishful thinking'. "Never before have our children been congregated in school with such high levels of Covid in the community" [External Link to the Irish Times]
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Read opinion by Associate Prof. Tomás Ryan in the Business Post (Aug 1): 'Children are still at the starting line in the race against Delta variant' [External Link to the Business Post]
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ISAG Public Meeting, 'How Can We Make Our Schools Safer?': Watch our meeting from March 3rd, 2021 chaired by Gary Gannon, T.D., with our panel- Deepti Gurdasani, Olive O'Connor, Louise Gallagher, and Gabriel Scally who shared their expertise, research, and experience on why we should do everything in our power to make schools safer. [External link to YouTube]
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ISAG Discussion paper on the Reopening of Schools: A second phase of school reopening saw children with special educational needs, the four youngest primary school-going years, and Leaving Cert students return to schools (March, 2021) [PDF]
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Evidence summary: Schools and Transmission: Peer reviewed international evidence quantifying the impact of school closures and reopenings on individual risks and community-level transmission rates, by Gerry Killeen (University College Cork) (March, 2021) [PDF]
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Watch the recording of our Public Meeting (Aug 18) on schools reopening, hosted by Prof. Aoife McLysaght (Smurfit Institute of Genetics, TCD) [External link to Twitter]
Ireland is a wealthy country, with a reasonable health service; many countries are far less equipped. We have choices. We have the choice to eliminate COVID19, allowing our economy and society to recover while also greatly reducing the risk of nasty surprises from new variants.

Watch the latest ISAG Public Meeting and Press Conference from 30/6 on YouTube >
Ireland is a wealthy country, with a reasonable health service; many countries are far less equipped. We have choices. We have the choice to eliminate COVID19, allowing our economy and society to recover while also greatly reducing the risk of nasty surprises from new variants.

Watch the latest ISAG Public Meeting and Press Conference from 30/6 on YouTube >

Our future relationship with Covid-19

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We've done better than some countries, and worse than others.
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Ireland is a wealthy country, with a reasonable health service. We have choices.
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Read our Letter to Irish Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly T.D. from the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (19th of August) on the key need to control case numbers

Vaccines+ Strategy

Watching countries ahead of us in their vaccine roll-out achieve days where new case numbers don’t rise above 10, it is important to know that they are using a Vaccines+ strategy. This means high levels of population vaccination plus travel restrictions, indoor mask wearing and other measures, in particular those right now aimed at preventing re-seeding by variants of concern like Delta. As the UK looked at delaying the lifting of coronavirus restrictions, Prof. Aoife McLysaght discussed this with Dr. Gabriel Scally.
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Long Covid

The government has chosen to open up hospitality and travel as cases are going up dramatically, setting the stage for even larger increases in daily case numbers. At this rate, will we be able to open schools and universities safely in September? Young people may be less likely to die from Covid-19, but "Long Covid" can have debilitating effects in the long-term that could leave us with multiple, population-wide health problems for the next few decades. A discussion was held on this subject by ISAG, led by Prof. Aoife McLysaght (TCD).
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image credit: University of Minnesota

Travel and Hospitality

What's the prudent approach to essential and non-essential travel? Anthony Staines, Aoife McLysaght and Gerry Killeen address how we can manage and reduce risks.
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Ireland and the UK

As the UK moved to 'Freedom Day', and case numbers, hospitalisations, and deaths rise, ISAG discussed the implications for the island of Ireland.
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Read the New Statesman article by Prof. Gabriel Scally: "Why the UK's new Covid-19 strategy is uniquely dangerous" [External Link to New Statesman]
In response to the global surge of infection linked to the delta variant and the UK, our nearest neighbour, deciding to lift all pandemic related restrictions on personal behaviour, social mixing and economic activity from July 19th, a public meeting led by Prof. Gabriel Scally, University of Bristol.
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Read Associate Prof. Tomás Ryan's article in the Sunday Independent: "Ireland is at risk of a Covid surge after the UK's radical and reckless move" [External Link to Sunday Independent]

Social Inclusion and Reducing Inequalities

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What support is, or should be, available to vulnerable groups in our societies? What do we mean by Social Inclusion and the impact of Covid on marginalised, excluded and vulnerable groups in Ireland?

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International Perspectives

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In the week prior to the meeting, the Delta variant (B.1.617.2, first identified in India) became the dominant strain of SARS-CoV2 detected in England. Data reported by Public Health England showed that cases have risen 27% in one week, while hospital admissions had risen 15%, despite a majority of the total population (almost 60%, compared to roughly 35% in Ireland) having received at least one vaccination dose.

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A Global Pandemic Calls for Global Solutions. Every crisis presents solutions and with those solutions come opportunities to so things better than before. ISAG spoke to Dr. Shubhangi Karmakar (TCD) and public health Professor Ivan Perry on May 19th.

Watch the meeting (May 19) [YouTube]  |  Read a summary [PDF]

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Elimination in Europe and its implications for Ireland In this webinar, we invited representatives of four European countries to give a brief overview of the prospects for COVID-19 elimination in their country, and Europe in general, reflecting among other topics on the challenges faced.

Watch the meeting (Mar 31) [YouTube]

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What are the current patterns of COVID-19 variant growth in other countries? What do we know about their epidemiology, and the potential impact on the Irish and global population? How do these variants affect the roll-out of first generation vaccines? And, how do they affect our ability to safely exit the long lockdowns we have in place in an attempt to suppress, or live with the virus, rather than to eliminate it? Internationally renowned science communicator, Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding and Epidemiological Modeler, Dr. Thomas Mellan will discuss these and other questions.

Watch the meeting (Apr 21) [YouTube]

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Covid-19 Economics – an International Perspective. Over a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, we discussed the international economic lessons that have been learned, and the analysis of costs and benefits of public health measures to control Covid-19. Hosted by James Merrick, with presentations from our two invited speakers, Francesco Grigoli, Economist with the International Monetary Fund, and Anna Scherbina, Professor at Brandeis University.

Watch the meeting (Mar 24) [YouTube]

About the Group

The Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG) is a multidisciplinary group of scientists, academics, and researchers who have come together to advocate for a SARS-CoV-2 elimination strategy for the island of Ireland.
 
ISAG has published several papers outlining its strategy and recommendations, and hosts regular public meetings and press conferences, often with invited guest experts in their respective fields.
 
Founded by Anthony Staines, Gerry Killeen, and Tomás Ryan in June 2020, ISAG is independent of government. All of our members are volunteers and they freely commit their time every week to discuss the COVID-19 science that underpins the Irish and Northern Irish government’s response strategies.
 
If you have any queries or would like to support the group, please do not hesitate to contact us. Get involved at We Can Be Zero.

© 2021 Independent Scientific Advocacy Group.

Ireland on the move: are we doing enough to stay COVID-safe indoors?

As Ireland moves indoors into a range of spaces, including workplaces, schools, third level and further education settings, and community centres, a discussion took place on Wednesday September 22nd on the importance of ventilation as a mitigation against COVID - an airborne virus - in indoor settings.
Our guest speaker was Assistant Professor Orla Hegarty of UCD. Orla was part of an expert group which reported to NPHET on the management of indoor air in a pandemic. She was also an expert witness at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health in May 2021.  

Not only is good indoor air quality a requirement of workplace Health & Safety,  it is a crucial factor in controlling the transmission of COVID. This is still a Public Health requirement, even with the very high vaccine uptake in Ireland, to protect the unvaccinated and the vulnerable vaccinated against infection, and everyone against the risks of Long COVID.

She was joined by Professor Anthony Staines of DCU, and the discussion was chaired by Professor Aoife McLysaght of TCD.