Peter Shreeve, Assistant District Secretary of the National Education Union, shares this latest news. Ed
Four prominent members of the Government’s own scientific advisory body have broken ranks to express worries about the safety of wider primary school openings on Monday.
SAGE members Professor Peter Horby, who is chair of the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG); Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Institute; John Edmunds, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Calum Semple, professor in Child Health and Outbreak Medicine have all expressed fears about the easing of lockdown.
Test, trace, isolate must be fully running BEFORE lockdown relaxed
On Saturday’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Professor Horby agreed with Professors Edmunds’ and Farrar’s concerns, saying that SAGE has always been very clear that test, trace, isolate must be fully running BEFORE lockdown is relaxed. The system needs to be tracking most new cases, he said, following them up within 48 hours.
The role of children and schools in transmission
Professor Horby added that SAGE does not have a good handle on the role of children and schools in transmission and stated that returning to another lockdown would be much worse than delaying another two or three weeks until contact tracing is fully up and running.
Edmunds: 8,000 new infections every day
Professor Edmunds said,
“There are still 8,000 new infections every day in England without counting those in hospitals and care homes… If you look at it internationally, it’s a very high level of incidence.
“I think many of us would prefer to see the incidence driven down to lower levels because that then means that we have fewer cases occurring before we relax the measures.”
Farrar: Spreading too fast to lift lockdown
Professor Farrar tweeted:
“Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England. TTI [test, trace and isolate] has to be in place, fully working, capable [of dealing with] any surge immediately.”
Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England. Agree with John & clear science advice. TTI has to be in place, fully working, capable dealing any surge immediately, locally responsive, rapid results & infection rates have to be lower. And trusted https://t.co/ZmYKs4Go3W— Jeremy Farrar (@JeremyFarrar) May 29, 2020
Semple: A political decision
Professor Semple said:
“Essentially, we’re lifting the lid on a boiling pan and it’s just going to bubble over… We need to get it down to simmer before we take the lid off, and it’s too early.”
He also said that levels of transmission and hospital admissions are still too high.
“I think a political decision has been made to tie in with when school was due to start, were everything normal, but it’s not normal.”
Shreeve: This changes everything
Peter Shreeve, Assistant District Secretary of the National Education Union said:
“This public break by four prominent of the Government’s SAGE committee changes everything. No-one can now confidently assert that it is safe to open schools more widely from Monday.
“All four of these members of SAGE agree that there must a lower number of cases and an efficient system of contact tracing working before there is a relaxation of lockdown measures. Both these measures are included in the NEU’s Five Tests.
“Opening schools more widely runs the risk of increasing the R rate and therefore the level of risk to staff and to parents. That risk can only be mitigated if contact tracing is running successfully. The Prime Minister’s earlier excessive optimism of being ‘world-beating’ is at odds with Baroness Dido Harding, who is heading up the NHS Test and Trace system. She told MPs on a Zoom call on Thursday it would not be fully operational until the end of June.”
Shreeve: Gov “following the science” undermined
He went on to say,
“At a national level the NEU has made that case strongly to Government – and we have been supported by the BMA and by the Independent SAGE group in our concerns. At a local level, we have communicated concerns with our MP, Bob Seely, Councillor Paul Brading, the LA and with individual school leaders.
“Government replies that it is following the science. But this public break by senior members of SAGE, including by the chair of the NERVTAG committee, undermines that claim.”
Shreeve: Only open when contact tracing is working
Mr Shreeve finished by saying,
“At least two local media sources have reported: ‘It will not be possible to accommodate all children in all priority year groups while adhering to the national guidance, mainly due to school and classroom sizes presenting logistical problems.’ This has been the NEU stance all along.
“Even at this late stage, we call on the Government to draw back from wider opening of primary schools from Monday.
“Instead we urge them to engage in talks with all concerned and only open, when the contact tracing system is shown to be working.”
The Isle of Wight council say from Monday (1st June), schools across the Isle of Wight will open their doors once more to youngsters in Year 6, Year 1, reception and nursery. They say that every educational setting that opens from Monday will have undertaken a thorough health and safety risk assessment to identify the measures they will need to have in place to reduce the risk of spreading infection. Ed