Tuesday 9 March 2021

Reopening schools now is both reckless and dangerous

 Yesterday we saw schools start to reopen. All throughout the pandemic, the government have made bad decisions, claiming they are following the science, but blatently ignoring it. Last summer, with no vaccination program and the virus still active in the community, they embarked on a completely reckless policy of "eat out to help out", which fuelled the autumn surge and propelled us to the highest per capita death rate of any major nation. You would think they would have learned that when dealing with a deadly virus, caution is the watchword. I do not dispute that they have done a magnificent job with the vaccination program, but whilst you may be able to justify the reopening of clubs for the over 50's, just think for a second about schools.

Firstly most parents are below 50 years old, so they are largely vulnerable to the virus. By definition, the younger the children, the younger the parents. Parents congregate outside schools and chat. I've been there and done that. Whilst transmission is less likely outside, it still happens.

Secondly teenagers do catch the virus and do transmit it to other family members. Whilst, by and large, they do not suffer the same devastating effects, they will form a well of infection in the community, which is a fertile place for the virus to mutate.

Third, teachers have not been vaccinated. Being in a classroom with 30 odd children is clearly exposing them to risk in the workplace. I totally agree with the concept of vaccinating the most vulnerable, but we should also vaccinate those most in harms way. A vaccination program for all teachers, police etc should have taken a much higher priority than vaccinations for and healthy people in their 50's who do not come into contact with anyone as they are working from home.The majority of teachers are under 50 and have not been vaccinated.

We still currently have about 30,000 people a week being tested positive for infections, at the end of February last year we probably had half that (no stats exist). We now have far more virulent strains than we did last year when Boris's reckless scheme to open up was enacted. If we'd waited to reopen schools until after Easter we'd have seen another 15 million people vaccinated. That would have given the UK close to what is required for herd immunity, which is around 60-70% of the population. 

I thoroughly get that the government wants to get the economy moving ASAP, but rushing out of lockdown and slamming on the brakes when the rate rises is insanity and far more damaging than cautiously emerging. I cannot possibly see how six people meeting outside in a pub garden can present a greater transmission risk than 30 children in a school, with teachers, janitors, catering staff, support staff etc. Not only that, but teenagers packing on buses, tubes etc is another transmission vector. 

I hope I am wrong, but when you look at how quickly infection rates rise once the shackles are off, surely we we are jumping the gun. This is not a decision based on the science of transmission. It is a political gamble based on the fact that we've done a good job innoculating over 50's. It may well be that it stops enough people being hospitalised to keep the NHS functioning at managable levels, but it is a gamble and one with people's lives and the economy. To me it seems like madness. It would make far more sense to extend the school year and have a three week Summer holiday this year. It's not like we've all got holidays booked. I hope and pray I'm wrong and Boris is right here, but it is a gamble and a risk and not one I think is worth taking. In six weeks time, we will have the next major step down in restrictions, if things are 'on track'. If hey are not, you know why and you know who to blame.

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