Close our schools and keep the kids safe
By Nick Stuart
The rapid spread of the new Covid-19 variant is deeply worrying. More infections, as we can see from our ejection from Tier 1 into Tier 4 within days; and also affecting children much more than before. It's time to take action. How? Every IoW resident can help. Here's how:
Contact the Government and Council directly, and through MP and Councillors, to request that schools should not open as planned.
You can find your Councillor on this IoW Council page. Our MP's contact details are on this UK Parliament site.There is a Department for Education page on the Gov.uk site which has details of the Ministers and how to contact the department.
In London, Ed Davey MP and other Lib Dem MPs successfully led the charge to ensure all London primary schools remain closed. On the Island many people have raised this issue and now more than ever we need our elected officials to step up and listen to parents, teachers and public by telling the Government our views. We need direction on the Island and the question is are the leadership confident that the Covid transmission rates are negligible in schools?
Covid responses must change in response to the new variant which is 40% to 70% more infectious especially in children and teenagers. We have infections accelerating from their low levels faster than virtually anywhere in the UK and it's time to think about a circuit-break to stop numbers of seriously ill Covid patients overwhelming the limited hospital resources on the Island.
The Government insists on mass testing forcing schools to open when we know the current fast test is less than 50% accurate even with fully trained technical staff. With only a few days notice over Christmas Ministers seem to think that Senior school staff can plan and deliver a perfect rolling testing regime with untrained volunteers and army personnel. A mass testing system with minimal resources and a workforce stretched to breaking point is a guarantee of chaos. The Teaching profession are desperate to teach while keeping staff pupils, parents and the general public safe so let's listen to their call for a 'circuit-break' to include all schools including primaries, and for secondary schools to run on a rota basis which can keep cases lower whilst keeping children learning. We know that mass testing will lead to lots of isolated teachers, pupils and families so more Government support for online learning are essential.
For those of you with parental responsibilities you may wish to keep their children at home and I would expect the Council and Schools to be sympathetic given they have the powers to allow children to be absent for Covid related reasons.
Finally let's recognise the efforts of the NHS, Council staff and public services as they cope with the Covid pandemic along with a complex vaccine rollout. Help them to help us as we face a desperately hard time with this new variant before vaccines reach much of the population. Please go with the vast majority of your fellow Islanders. Keep your distance, sanitise and wear a mask, including children.
Fighting for a fairer - and safer - Island