When Greenwich and Islington councils advised their schools to close early for the Xmas holidays earlier this week, Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson issued formal legal threats against them. Never mind that Greenwich currently has its highest rate of Covid infection since March.
But for some government spokespersons, schools remain “among the safest places to be during this pandemic”! Yes, when according to the government’s own data, cases are rising fastest among secondary-school children aged 12 to 19.
In fact the government never did anything to make schools safe. Each school was left to come up with its own “plan” for dealing with Covid, without any provision for extra staff, without the possibility of getting students in on a rota basis and without rules for mask-wearing at all times.
Instead, Gavin Williamson continuously harps on about how schools need to be open, so that children’s education is not affected. Yet hasn't the quality of education been falling for years, as cut followed cut over the past decade?
Indeed, in this final week before Xmas, most lesson time is occupied with watching videos and having Xmas parties. So while Williamson sheds crocodile tears over children missing out on face to face teaching, the government's only worry is that bosses might miss out on their workers, stuck at home looking after their kids, and therefore miss out on their profits.
Just as the government has helped the virus spread among schoolchildren, it’s helped it to spread amongst their parents. It has retained statutory sick pay at a pittance of £95.85/week; it never forced bosses to pay all self-isolating workers, nor banned bosses from sacking workers. And of course, Tier 3 does not close shops nor manual workplaces!
So no wonder cases have been rising again and a third Covid wave is on its way! However, for Heath Secretary Matt Hancock, the current increasing rate of infections has nothing to do with inept or inappropriate government policies. Instead he blamed it on a “new strain” of the virus “detected in the South-East”. Even though this strain has not yet been proven as a cause of the increase. In fact, since September, just 1,108 cases of this mutation have been identified.
Of course, only a small sample of virus specimens are actually tested for mutations, which are in fact very frequent. But even so, this is just another example of Hancock’s inability to take any responsibility for the inept - and indeed lethal - policy he and his government have followed since the beginning of this pandemic.