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Students expected to succeed and avoid virus

Time to write off educational year
The moment is looming when the decision to declare 2020 an educational write-off must be considered. At all levels, 2020 must be a repeat year. The risks of face-to-face teaching, especially in a constrained time frame, do not justify the attempt to pretend that young people can continue as normal next year.
Tony Haydon, Springvale

Heightened risk is personal for some
Daniel Andrews infamously declared that he would not want his mother in some aged care places. Could he now please tell us: Does he have any children physically attending school in lockdown zones? Does he have any close family members working as teachers, at school every day, in lockdown zones? How happy and comfortable would he feel if he did? How many incidents of COVID-19 at his loved one’s school would be too many, despite any amount of ‘‘deep cleaning’’ and unreliable contact tracing?
Anthony Caughey, Elwood

Anxiety at school fuels uncertainty
Enforcing the ‘‘face covering’’ requirement in schools, even with senior students, can be far from straightforward. Although most try to comply, a minority are choosing to follow individuals in the media by challenging the validity of this measure. The effectiveness of the directive to wear ‘‘face coverings’’ is reduced by students who want to test the boundaries of what may be considered a ‘‘face covering’’, or who dispute whether they are warranted.

An environment where apprehension and uncertainty are ever present is not conducive to effective learning. Students must feel safe before they can learn. I understand the majority of students had positive remote learning experiences. Practices and procedures are in place for a straightforward transition back online. Surely, with the current level of risk, disadvantage should be addressed in a safe manner.
Name withheld


Why turn to gas?
There is a worldwide glut of gas and the bottom has fallen out of the market. US gas extractors are going broke. All nations with real plans for the future are ramping up renewables and storage and forgoing fossil fuels to reduce their carbon emissions (‘‘Gas jobs plan on front burner’’, 29/7). Who is really running this country? The government does not seem to have the best interests of the vast majority of Australians, or Australia, at heart.
Helen Moss, Croydon

In the pipeline
With the known enthusiasms of its members, it was inevitable that the National COVID-19 Co-ordination Commission taskforce would come out with a recommendation for gas to save us from our post-pandemic manufacturing woes. This will only be possible with massive government subsidies and long-term guarantees to the producers. The owners of the pipeline would also receive subsidies. This is strange – pipeline businesses are already among the most profitable in Australia.
These proposals could never stand scrutiny on their intrinsic merits and will inevitably become stranded assets with the taxpayer holding the baby. Recent satellite evidence confirms that methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is emitted during production and transport at much higher levels than previously thought. The supposed benefits of gas over coal are illusory.
Peter Barry, Marysville

Natural advantages
Gas is a fossil fuel and results in the release of dangerous and damaging pollution. Professor Ross Garnaut and others are urging Australia to restructure for the long term by exploiting our natural renewable advantages. Vast solar, wind and coastline resources could result in Australia becoming the clean, green energy superpower. Clean and cheap power has many benefits, most of which the taskforce is hoping to achieve. Invest in renewables instead.
Michael Weadon, Ballarat

Problems well known
The problems with aged care homes are not new. The federal government has created a situation where rapacious operators can make a great profit running them. The staffing levels are so low, the wages likewise. My husband was in respite at a home when he became ill – the centre doctor suggested he be given sedatives. Our own GP attended and had my husband immediately transferred to hospital with pneumonia. The hospital was intending to return him to the agedcare centre because the centre should be able to care for him. Once they knew he was not a permanent resident and that we had top medical cover, he was kept in hospital for some weeks until he recovered. Aged care clients are second-class citizens. It is small wonder these poor care givers cannot address something as major as the coronavirus.
Doris LeRoy, Altona

Some positive news
It was encouraging to finally read an authoritative article (‘‘Cases are high but lockdown is working’’, 29/7) by Catherine Bennett and Hassan Vally – both epidemiologists – giving a politically unbiased opinion on the rates of COVID-19 infection and the efficacy of the current suite of controls put in place by the Andrews government. It provides some positive news for a change.
Brandon Mack, Deepdene

Benefits of sprawl
Nicholas Reece, as a councillor of the City of Melbourne, naturally envisions a post-COVID-19 future where, for him, the experience of visiting the city’s retail strips and shopping centres will remain ‘‘fantastic’’ (‘‘Melbourne can return stronger’’, 29/7). In fact, with the new phenomenon of working from home, online shopping and learning taking hold, what US-based journalist Ian Bogost recently termed ‘‘the revenge of the suburbs’’ is a more credible future scenario. As he argues, a cyclical historic change in urban movements appears imminent. The hitherto perceived defects of the urban sprawl may now come to be considered as attributes. Controversial to some, but surely appealing in a virus-ridden world.
Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza

Economics refresher
Thank you Ross Gittins for the refresher course on an era of economics the Treasurer would like to revive. It has been alarming to see Josh Frydenberg reveal his true colours. The Thatcher government’s popularity soared with the success of the Falklands war. Trump is mounting a similar economy camouflage with his China campaign. Are we to be led down a similar path?
Alan Rodd, North Hobart, Tas.

Skeleton staff
The Aged Care Act of 1997 irresponsibly handed providers the freedom to dispense with all but a skeleton staff of registered nurses, providing the way for them to employ a majority staff of personal care workers. Having trained some excellent personal carers in their Certificate III course, I know that although proficient in showering, toileting and transferring skills, there was time only for the most basic information to be given about infection-control procedures. Not enough to have the skills to adequately care for a gastro outbreak – let alone a pandemic.
Glenda Addicott, Ringwood East

PM’s leadership
The question that Scott Morrison needs to answer is why during the height of the pandemic, especially here in Melbourne, he found time to travel to the Sunshine Coast to campaign for the upcoming Queensland state election. Surely, Morrison would have learnt from his mistakes during the bushfire crisis and that his focus would be on leading the Commonwealth’s actions to assist the Victorian government. Morrison continues to disregard his role as leader and should extend his focus beyond Sydney, rugby matches or upcoming state elections.
Wayne Smith, Kew

Aerosol slipstream
‘‘The Exercise Balance’’ (Letters, 29/7) defending the right for joggers to pursue their chosen exercise without the requirement to wear masks states it is not feasible to wear a mask while jogging. It also said the health of a large number of people would be affected if they were prevented from exercising. With this first point I can agree that even if feasible, it would be rather demanding. With the second point regarding a large number of people and their health, this implies that joggers comprise a large number. This is not the case. A short walk around local parks will show that the large majority of folk are masked pedestrians who are not being prevented from exercising.
There are other forms of exercise that come close to providing exercise of equivalent value to jogging.

When postulating tiny risks of transmission, studies have shown that aerosols expelled by not even so strenuous exercise can travel for up to six metres in a slight 4km/h breeze, and it is not debatable that joggers leave a solid slipstream of aerosols. They should be masked as are others who may equally dislike the imposition.
Dr Henry Askin, Hawthorn

Unsupported assertions
The Melbourne University academics (Letters, 29/7) should know that the assertion of an unsupported statement does not make it a fact. Their letter contains at least three such unverifiable assertions. That strenuous physical exercise is ‘‘not feasible’’ while wearing a mask – uncomfortable perhaps, but not unfeasible. That the additional risk of COVID-19 transmission by mask-less joggers is ‘‘tiny’’. According to epidemiologists (not mathematicians) perhaps less, but not necessarily tiny, and certainly not zero. That the health benefits to people ‘‘prevented (by masking) from exercise’’ is more than ‘‘balanced’’ by the increased risk to the health of the rest of the community. By which claim our quartet is presumed to have accurately assessed the value of a life lost in consequence of
COVID-19 infection, however low the risk.

I sincerely hope each of them would maintain academic standards by failing any of their students who presented a thesis so replete with unsupported assertions.
Ronald Burntein, Heidelberg

Particulate pollution
How ironic that people are turning to polluting wood heaters to provide comfort in the pandemic. Studies in the US, Italy, the Netherlands, Chile and China all show that particulate pollution substantially increases the risk of COVID-19.

The virus has been identified on air pollution particles, possibly enabling it to be carried over longer distances and infect more people.

Some communities warned their residents not to burn wood to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
Wood smoke damages our lungs and reduces their ability to fight infection. It contains the same and very similar chemicals to tobacco smoke. Burning even 1 kg of wood in a modern, enclosed heater produces more toxic chemicals than in the smoke of tens of thousands of cigarettes.
Sufferers of Spanish flu were perhaps comforted by cigarettes, but the majority of us avoid tobacco smoke because we value our health. It’s time to encourage everyone to do the same with wood smoke.
Dorothy L. Robinson, Armidale, NSW

Trickling down
Filling up at a bowser the other day, I had a revelation. Finally, I understood ‘‘trickle-down’’ theory: it’s all a question of positive thinking.

If I stood back, conjured up a vision of Mrs Thatcher and Mr Reagan, and hosed petrol over the car roof, fuel would somehow trickle into the tank.
How did that turn out? Alas, not well – tank empty, I had to push the car home. Obviously, I need to work on my attitude.

But luckily the Treasurer apparently does have the right Reagonomics mindset, and we can hope that tax cuts lavished on corporations and high incomes will trickle down and make us all rich. Eventually, maybe.
Peter Freckleton, Hampton




Aged care
The Coalition touchstones, privatisation and deregulation, are just as responsible as the virus for the deaths in aged care.
Graeme Henderson, Bullengarook

Where profit is the driving force, seems ‘‘care’’ is optional in many of our privately run aged-care facilities.
Annie Wilson, Inverloch

I remember when ‘‘Military Intelligence’’ was the oxymoron of the times. Now it must surely be ‘‘Aged Care’’ and ‘‘Nursing Homes’’.
Myra Fisher, Brighton East

A genuine leader would have rolled his sleeves up and been hands-on in assisting Victoria with the pandemic. Instead Scott Morrison has left it to Daniel Andrews to do the heavy lifting and cop the criticism.
Phil Alexander, Eltham

Ross Nielsen (Letters, 29/7), as a Victorian living here I am proud of the work of Dan Andrews, who has remained strong and calm throughout the summer bushfires and now COVID-19.
Kay Moulton, Surrey Hills

Spare a thought for those joggers who would fall into irreversible decrepitude if they had to mask up and slow down for a short time.
Ian Powell, Glen Waverley

Joggers, please exercise in your own backyard. Haven’t you heard of the skipping rope and the Canadian Air Force 5BX?
Dr Peter Evans, Malvern

Meat industry shutdown could cause shortages and ‘‘would likely prompt panic buying’’ (29/7). On the bright side, it’s a great time to be vegetarian.
John Paine, Kew East

Why can’t Canberra politicians be like AFL footballers? Go into the hub, quarantine, then do your job up there. Australians need Parliament back in action.
John Boyce, Richmond

Spending months in lockdown isn’t fun but it beats spending eternity prematurely six feet under.
Vikki O’Neill, Ashburton

Can’t get over the feeling the US is ‘‘playing’’ us over China. Channelling Teddy Roosevelt, we must remember not to talk too loudly, as we carry a very small stick.
Moray Byrne, Edithvale

To submit a letter to The Age, email Please include your home address and telephone number.

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