Never fear, the roadmap is here

Never fear, the roadmap is here
Never fear, the roadmap is here

At time of writing, in England there are 53 million people living and of those, around 3 million people have been fully vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus.

That means approximately 5.6% of the population had been fully vaccinated (Or, to put it another way, 94.6% were not vaccinated) when the British Prime Miniter Boris Johnson announced his “roadmap” to unlock the country. What could possibly go wrong?

He did state that a Covid-free Britain isn’t ever going to be possible. But still he won’t use the word “lockdown”. And let’s gloss over the word “roadmap” which is one of the most irritating middle-manager cliches ever.

The PM has emphasised this is all about data, not dates, so with that in mind here are the key dates he has set:

  • 8th March – Reopening schools all at once (irrespective of the unvaccinated staff, teachers and parents, and with no additional safety measures whatsoever).
  • 29th March – Up to six people from two households are allowed to “gather” in gardens or parks. (Again irrespective of their vaccination status).
  • 12th April – Shops, hairdressers, gyms, outdoor hospitality can reopen (again irrespective of staff/customer vaccinations).
  • 17th May – Up to six people from two households can “meet in a pub or restaurant”. (Irrespective of… well, you get the picture).
  • 21st June – All limits on social contact removed. (You guessed it).

Each of the above stages will be subject to four “tests” before it goes ahead. (I won’t even bother to list them here because they are not actually “tests” in any mesurable sense, they are waffly subjective vagueries, or opinions, such as “Is the NHS feeling overwhelmed”, or “Is the vaccination programme still going along nicely”).

Do you remember the R number?

Do you remember when the R number (a specific measurable quantity) controlled these major decisions? I do. Now that was a test.

Now, firstly, I will give credit. The government have at least put forward something. At long last, there is something to cling to. It’s not much, but my God, something is so much better than nothing.

Photo by amy chung on Pexels.com
Freedom still feels very distant

The trouble is there are massive holes and huge questions engulfing the so called roadmap. While many are celebrating it as a wonderful key to guaranteed health and prosperity, I’m just not buying it. For many of us, perhaps because of these gaps, freedom still feels very distant, and assurance feels unfounded.

Make no mistake: This is a huge gamble.

Make no mistake: This is a huge gamble by the PM. He must know, undeniably, that if he blows it this time, he’s finished. He is opening schools against medical advice, and risking everything by lifting restrictions without vaccine pre-requisites. It might work, but it might go horribly wrong. He’s rolling the dice and hoping that he somehow bumbles through like he always does.

Timing

Forgive my skepticism. The timing is highly suspect. The month of May sees local elections coming up, and postal votes not a strong point for Tory voters (whose age group is demographically highly vulnerable to Covid).

We are constantly told schools are the priority here, so why are we opening the schools for a fortnight before they have to close for easter holidays, thus putting children into more stop/start anxiety and allowing less time for teachers to prepare?

Would it not have made more sense to hold on until after Easter, allowing teachers, staff and parents to be vaccinated in that break and give the best possible chance for schools to prepare some solid safety measures?

No, apparently not, we can’t possibly hold on a moment longer. Roll the dice, send them back, get on with it. One hopes there’ll be a chance to establish stable and irreversible schooling, somehow, as we go along. (From government point of view, this needs to happen way before the local elections).

Why no school-focused vaccination ahead of reopening?

Schools are germ factories, and always have been. Anyone with children knows this. It is practically guaranteed that children absent from school for a few weeks, will have very little immunity and will pick up something quickly upon their return. We saw at the end of the first lockdown, dozens of kids being off sick with colds and coughs. Same will happen again here.

But so far as Covid is concerned, what’s the problem? We have vaccines, right? It is within the power of local authorities to vaccinate all the parents, the staff and the teachers before opening the school gates. This seems fundamental to me, and I cannot understand why no effort has been put into this.

It is perhaps no surprise though, given the Health Secretary himself has rejected calls to get teachers vaccinated as priority.

I would have said schools need to be declared 100% safe (teachers and staff vaccinated as bare minimum) before even thinking of reopening. Otherwise you know what will happen: They’ll close again, very quickly.

Schools need to be declared 100% safe (teachers and staff vaccinated as bare minimum) before even thinking of reopening.

I can think of two possible reasons this effort hasn’t been made; either stupidity or a cynical rush to show communities some action before the local elections in May.

Still working from home then?

Why is it OK to open schools, but not offices? We are STILL being instructed to work from home if we can, and STILL getting no help or support on the mental health side of that. A “return to the office” date is NOT part of the road map, and this is truly depressing for many of us who are struggling with the situation.

The opening of schools for me is a big contradiction against many other parts of the Covid recovery policy. Schools are always rampant spreaders of viruses and bugs, yet somehow magically it’s OK to open them now to everyone regardless of their health or vaccination status.

But adults can’t go to work in a massive office building, even if every person there is vaccinated. How does that add up?

Credibility

How can we believe, trust or embrace any of these promises having been broken so many times already? We can’t. But we have no choice. It’s all we’ve got.

While many parents are jumping for joy at the PM’s annoucnement, I am one of those who is tensely bracing for the heartache of schools closing yet again after the Easter holidays because no effort has been made to vaccinate teachers, staff or parents. The key measure for me will be, do children actually go back to school after Easter, and stay there until the Summer holidays? If they can do that, and the R rate still drops, I’ll start to believe we are getting somewhere.

What does Science say?

How has the scientific community reacted to Johnson’s grand roadmap? This is what I care about; actual facts, expertise, realities. Not catchphrases and waffle. I want to know if the scientists approved it. Chris Whitty, the chief medical advisor to the Prime Minister, has been said to be very unhappy with the plan to reopen schools in a single ‘big bang’. A carefully controlled media though are remaining fairly quiet on Whitty’s stance, with science concerns totally away from the headlines.

So yet again we have an implied instruction of: shut up, get behind the plan, be supportive, don’t you dare criticise or point out facts, that’s unpatriotic. Sound familiar?

I'll only be happy when the chief medical advisor Mr. Whitty is happy.

Sorry everyone, not wanting to be a party pooper, but I’ll only be happy when the chief medical advisor Mr. Whitty is happy. As it stands, he is totally against the reopening of schools in this way. So you go ahead and celebrate if you want. I’ll keep the champagne on ice for now.

3 thoughts on “Never fear, the roadmap is here

  1. I hear you on the schools (especially with teachers still unvaccinated), but I’d disagree about offices. No one knows yet to what extent vaccination stops the spread of the virus–or if it does at all. Most vaccines for other diseases don’t. (There’s a useful article in the Atlantic on that if you want it: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/02/post-vaccination-risk-is-a-false-dilemma/618149/?fbclid=IwAR08DgF1IYBxWSG4hiDPFdAzReQroyYroZhugkA_5Xo8K0nwyYT3TjxX7E4) At the end of the last lockdown, they practically drove people who’d been working at home back into offices–for no apparent reason. I don’t know to what extent they contributed to the second spike, but it’s a risk, and an unnecessary one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get it, but I think my problem with it is, the mixed up messaging, something is alright for A but not for B. All those parents, teachers, staff and kids can mix but you can’t have 20 adults working together in an office. I’m not saying get everyone back to offices, far from it, and the option to work from home is essential— But some of us struggle with it and it’s hard to take being “forced” to work from home, when around me others are mingling and mixing, for example at schools or in retail.

      Like

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