How client journalism and cosy relationships allow the UK government to maintain a shocking level of complacency about the risks posed by Covid-19 variants.

First published in June 2021.

What is the bet that as the Alpha variant B117 was falling in the community, it was in education where the Delta variant B16172 was increasing? And whilst they knew this, the government still went ahead with removing masks and suppressing the data instead of acting.

Chart by Christina Pagel. | Data from the Wellcome Sanger Institute

I think the government is hoping to obscure the scale of the issue in schools and gambles that hospitalisations are still low by 14 June. They will then announce further loosening but keep masks in certain places so they can claim that this is a sign of caution.

Yet, we still get voices in the media claiming children are practically immune, that transmission is so low that UK schools don’t need masks.

For Boris Johnson, children don’t really transmit, transmission is all in the community and stops at the school gates.

A lot of the world are shocked by the lack of measures in UK schools.

The lack of concern from most of the media shows how client journalism and cosy relationships allow the UK government to maintain a ludicrous level of complacency.

The Alpha variant B117 ramped up in schools before spreading into the community, covering up the same again.

Thinking back to last winter there are plenty of parallels. The Department for Education (DfE) guidance ignored all scientific advice. SAGE wanted social distancing and masks.

We got nothing.

I had warned that once transmission started to rise schools would become amplifiers.

Cases began to rip through schools at a faster rate than we expected, size and scale of transmission appeared greater than before, education made up a disproportionate number of outbreaks, particularly in the South East. This was the Alpha variant B117 emerging, now causing havoc around the world.

Yet, the government covered up the information and misrepresented the data in the hope of “saving Christmas”. Outbreaks, workers’ risk of infection, children being the most common index cases, etc.

The data said one thing, the government said this showed the opposite and the media obliged.

Remember the UK government concealed concerns around the spread of the Alpha variant B117, and they gaslighted safety in schools. At this point, the media were still telling us that children don’t really transmit, that transmission was all in the community and at the school gates.

Rather than admitting that transmission was an issue in schools, they even went as far to threaten Greenwich Council with court action to stay open for a few more days. To maintain the narrative they let transmission continue and people died unnecessarily.

If the data on the Delta variant B1.617.2 didn’t show that schools were hubs of infection the government would have released it and made sure it got lots of headlines even of it required cherry picking a few stats from the report.

My local director of public health says over 40% of our cases are coming from schools.

Is Boris Johnson allowing the Delta variant B16172 to spread in schools?

Rather than ministers being pestered for suppressing vital data, we get a BBC radio’s flagship news programme having a discussion about when social distancing will end! When did it start? An interview that was pure disinformation, it is dystopian!

I do worry that in a decade or more’s time the greatest scandal of the pandemic will be the long term impact of Long-COVID, with schools as a central focus.

They are allowing the Delta variant B16172 to spread in schools. Somedays it almost feels intentional.

The media know how disinformation campaigns construct hydras of organisations and inauthentic experts to give many mouths to the voice of a few. 

Karam Bales, NEU National Executive. Chair of NP & YW National Council. Officer for Unify: Professional Unity.


[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 2 June 2021 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Flickr/Number 10. - Health Secretary Matt Hancock delivers a keynote speech about the vaccination program at the University of Oxford. | 2 June 2021. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

Creative Commons License