There is growing evidence that young people are either being infected by the coronavirus or transmitting it, or both. Why then place another 23 areas of England in Tier 4, and yet keep most schools open as planned?
First published in December 2020.
Back in early November, the BBC reported that: “The number of school-age children with coronavirus had risen ‘significantly’ in the second wave compared with the first, according to the government’s [SAGE] scientific advisers.”
Two major surveillance studies by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Imperial College London showed that infections among people aged 16-24 were increasing in September; and by October increases could be seen throughout the 2-24-year-old age bracket.
The latest report, released on 24 December 2020, stated that, “In the most recent week, the percentage testing positive has continued to increase in primary and secondary school-age children and in young adults.”
So, given the growing evidence, and the growing number of infections, around half a million in the last 14 days, why has the government come to the decision to allow schools to return next month? Especially, given this accelerating pace of virus transmission across the country, together with growing pleas made by school leaders, teachers unions, and even some Conservative politicians, to take more decisive action to protect schools, their communities, their staff, and most importantly their students and their families.
What happened in the House of Commons this afternoon in this respect? Firstly, Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced that the Midlands, North East, some parts of the North West, including Greater Manchester, and some parts of the South West will be placed into Tier 4, the highest current level of the COVID-19 restrictions in England. This means that from midnight on Wednesday, 78% of people in England will be living under Tier 4 rules.
Then, following his announcement, Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson told the House of Commons that “the majority of primary schools will be opened as planned on Monday 4 January but in a small number of areas where the infection rates are highest primary school children will work remotely.”
Many are completely dumbfounded by this decision, such as Dr Nisreen Alwan, an Epidemiologist and Consultant in Public Health at the University of Southampton, who tweeted in response:
While even some Conservative MPs had recently expressed their concern about the situation; including yesterday, Sir Roger Gale who tweeted:
And today in the House of Commons, Jeremy Hunt MP, also Conservative chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee, asked this very pertinent question to the Health Secretary, as reported on ITV:
“Why in the middle of winter, when the NHS is under such pressure, when we have a dangerous new strain of the virus are we taking such huge risks?”
To Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School & College Leaders (ASCL), the government has simply not addressed one point: “The government needs urgently to explain why the full resumption of primary education is considered safe in most areas despite alarming infection rates. The support being provided for mass testing in secondary/FE is not sufficient.”
The question remains unanswered.🔷
When do they return to school?
- 4 January: Majority of primary schools return, except those where infection rates are highest (listed below).
- 11 January: Years 11 and 13 of secondary school (exam years) return.
- 18 January: All other years, college, and university students return.
(Note: Only vulnerable children and children of critical workers attend face to face lessons where schools are closed.)
Areas where primary schools will not open as planned:
▪ Barking and Dagenham
▪ Hammersmith and Fulham
▪ Kensington and Chelsea
▪ Tower Hamlets
▪ Waltham Forest
▪ Epping Forest
▪ Castle Point
▪ Southend on Sea
▪ Tonbridge and Malling
▪ Tunbridge Wells
▪ Milton Keynes
▪ Three Rivers
- Covid: Children more likely to be infected in second wave | BBC News
- Daily summary: Coronavirus in the UK | UK Government
Dr Joe Pajak, Professional experience applied scientific research and development, then director of a national children’s charity, trustee of a disability charity, and governor of NHS foundation trust hospitals.
Check their Voting Record:
🗳️ Matt Hancock
🗳️ Roger Gale
🗳️ Jeremy Hunt