Government’s scientific advisers – and other scientific groups – recognise return to school likely to fuel second and potentially larger ‘spike’
Extracts from reports by the government’s own scientific advisors show beyond doubt that the Tories are well aware that sending children back to school is dangerous – and likely to cause another ‘spike’ in coronavirus infections and deaths, potentially even larger than the first.
And research by other science groups agrees.
The Tories and their allies in the media – and some on the Labour right – have mounted a massive propaganda campaign attacking teachers and their unions for being unwilling to put children in the firing line of the virus, with appalling rhetoric and a blithe dismissal of the risk to children as small, in spite of the rapid growth in cases of ‘Kawasaki syndrome’-like illness in children infected with the coronavirus.
But the government’s own papers make it plain that the Tories know the dangers of doing so.
According to its page on the government’s website, the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, or SPI-M-O for short,
gives expert advice to the Department of Health and Social Care and wider UK government on scientific matters relating to the UK’s response to an influenza pandemic (or other emerging human infectious disease threats). The advice is based on infectious disease modelling and epidemiology.
SPI-M is currently reporting to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE)
And an SPI-M-O report dated February and titled “Consensus view on the impact of mass school closures” shows that the government’s slowness to close schools in the first place cost lives:
The larger impacts [on limiting viral spread] are seen when closures take place early in a UK outbreak.
The report also makes clear that longer closures are more effective:
longer school closures are likely to have more effective than shorter ones.
…the [modelling] suggests an effect of the order of 20 – 60% reduction [in the scale of the epidemic for a 6-12 week closure], while the compartmental models suggest 7.5% – 30%.
And the report is clear that a return to school risks driving cases and infections back up:
Once schools are reopened, the number of cases may increase again, with the overall attack rate not being reduced.
Official: Potential Impact
A government report titled ‘OFFICIAL: Potential impact of behavioural and social interventions on a Covid-19 epidemic in the UK – 9 March 2020’ echoes the same finding. Discussing the measures taken by governments in Singapore and Hong Kong, the report notes that social distancing and school closures – which the UK government crept towards weeks after the report was circulated (while cancelling parliamentary gatherings to protect MPs), are effective but that reopening schools would help drive a ‘large second epidemic’:
combining stringent social distancing measures, school closures and quarantining cases, as a long-term policy, may have a similar impact to that seen in Hong Kong or Singapore, but this could result in a large second epidemic wave once the measures were lifted
Children as transmitters
A Swiss report by epidemiologists and medical professionals Shedding of infectious SARS-CoV-2 in symptomatic neonates, children and adolescents confirms in its conclusions the role of children in the spread of the virus – to each other and to adults:
SARS-CoV-2 infects children across all age groups… it would be naïve not to consider them as transmitters
This information, published last month, is also available to the government and its scientific advisers – yet the government continues to cast doubt on the ability of children to pass the infection to others in order to shore up its case for re-opening schools.
Ignorance would be no excuse – but it cannot be claimed anyway
The government’s measures for ‘COVID-secure’ work and school places are a joke. The Tories know that putting children back into schools spreads the virus but have taken no significant steps to limit that spread. There has been no provision for serious preventative measures – not even a hint of the kind of protections put in place by countries such as China, which include disinfection for children on the way into and out of school as well as perspex shields and free masks for all children and teachers.
Boris Johnson was not merely slow to close schools in the first place, but even took steps to force them to stay open. Now, knowing that to do so will open the floodgates to another disastrous peak of infections and deaths, he is rushing to reopen them.
He is doing this in spite of a complete absence of meaningful preparations to protect children – and he is not just doing so against the advice of unions and medical professionals, but orchestrating attacks on them for not bowing to his wishes. Ignorance would be no excuse – but he cannot claim it anyway.
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