The UK government is like a mountaineer who decides that because he has “passed the peak” its safe to jump down the other side of the mountain.
As it tries to bounce parents to send their kids back to school and the newspapers try to generate a euphoric debate about how soon this or that sector of the economy can get going, it is as well to remember just how badly the UK is still doing and just how perilous this makes the coming weeks.
The graph below shows the daily COVID19 deaths across Europe on May 24th – the day that Boris Johnson announced a significant easing of the already very limited UK lockdown; including the partial reopening of schools on June 1st. It shows that the UK deaths reported that day were almost three times higher than the next highest country.
Although this is a daily snapshot, this pattern of very high deaths in the UK compared to other European countries is consistent. If you check out the graph in the source (1) and check back – there is only one day in the whole of May in which any other country had a worse daily death toll than the UK.
This graph shows the new infections for Friday May 29 (2). Again, the UK stands out as by far the worse case.
Its as well to reflect also that this total of juts over 2 000 are the daily infections that have been tested for. In the same press briefing as Boris Johnson claimed this a sign of how low they were getting, Sir Patrick Vallance pointed out that the actual level is probably more like 8 000 and the Kings College App projection is 9 000. That means that there is a known unknown of 6 – 7 000 cases that are on no one’s radar. Dido Harding, who is in charge of getting the Test Track and Isolate system up and running, admits that this won’t be working properly until the end of June.
In THIS situation, the government wants children, 5, 6 and 10 year olds, to go back to school, where they will be in “bubbles” of 15 other children, a teacher and a TA. They can then go home and their families can meet up to 6 people socially. Meanwhile, their parents can have been at work and meeting any number of other people in workplaces that are supposed to be socially distanced “where possible”; because it is completely unreasonable to require the normal functioning of business to be impeded by concerns about the health of workers.
This is why every school that stays shut, every parent who keeps their child at home, every teacher or TA who stand together to refuse to go back to an unsafe workplace (see preceding post: A Safety Net thats largely loopholes) will be saving lives. And that is why the National Education Union and the other education unions are in the front line of defending not only their members and the school communities they serve, but also the whole of society.