Boris Johnson has released details of his four-test “roadmap” out of lockdown – via the media, as has become his usual cowardly method.
It is now clear that Johnson will continue habitually to release details of any plans that may be controversial through his media cronies, to provide him with advance warning if any parts of them prove unpopular.
He is a coward – as bad in his way as Keir ‘focus group’ Starmer.
Here are some details:
The “rule of six” is expected to be reintroduced for outdoor gatherings from March 29. Outdoor sports facilities are expected to be allowed to open that day, and organised outdoor sport will be permitted to return.
In April, it is hoped that domestic self-catering holidays will be allowed and that gyms, hairdressers, and non-essential shops will be able to open.
Mr Johnson’s “roadmap” will include four tests which must all be met before the next step can go ahead. They are:
- That the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
- That evidence shows jabs are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
- That infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which puts unsustainable pressure on the NHS
- That the Government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern
The plan will be rolled out across the country at the same time with no return to regional tiers.
But I want to focus on the very first element in Johnson’s ‘re-opening’ plan:
Initially it is understood England’s schools will all be re-opened on March 8.
It seems Johnson is not only ignoring the science in his determination to do this, but also defying nine education organisations: the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), GMB, National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), NASUWT, National Education Union (NEU), National Governance Association (NGA), Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA), Unison, and Unite.
In a joint statement, they said:
The science around the role that schools play in the overall rate of transmission is uncertain. Scientists have expressed different views on this point. What we do know is that the full reopening of schools will bring nearly 10 million pupils and staff into circulation in England – close to one fifth of the population. This is not a small easing of lockdown restrictions. It is a massive step.
These factors necessitate a cautious approach with wider school and college opening phased over a period of time. This is the approach being taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It allows public health experts to assess the impact of the first phase before moving to the next.
We are increasingly concerned that … to order a full return of all pupils on Monday 8 March in England … would seem a reckless course of action.
It could trigger another spike in Covid infections, prolong the disruption of education, and risk throwing away the hard-won progress made in suppressing the virus over the course of the latest lockdown.
We therefore urge the Prime Minister to commit to 8 March only if the scientific evidence is absolutely clear that this is safe, and at that point go no further than a phased return of children and young people with sufficient time to assess the impact before moving to the next phase.
We see in Johnson’s plans no indication that his decision to reopen all English schools on March 8 has any basis in science.
His demand that there will be no phased return but all school pupils will go back at once is a slap in the face for the professionals who wanted a phased return – and sheer ignorance when compared with the policies of other UK countries.
It seems clear that this weakest of UK prime ministers has caved in to pressure from his backbenchers and big business.
He may get away with it, if the vaccination programme has reached enough people by March 8 and proves as effective as some claims state after the first jab.
But I fear that he is provoking yet another spike in infections and will cause thousands more deaths.
And even if it does happen, he’ll get away with it.
He may be the weakest prime minister the UK has ever had, but he’s still above the law that oppresses you and me.
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