Teacher asks Boris Johnson: 'How is it logical that I can mix with returning school children, but not my relatives?'

Louis Staples
Monday 11 May 2020 19:00
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It’s been a strange few days in British politics, even by the standards of 2020.

Boris Johnson has been out in force following a weekend where his coronavirus slogan, guidelines and televised statement produced reactions of ridicule and bewilderment.

The day started with Dominic Raab bungling his answers and appearing to contradict himself in several media appearances, and ended with Johnson’s daily press briefing.

During the briefing, Johnson faced questions from the media and members of the public on various elements of his new, slightly more relaxed “stay alert” message. The message, which applies to people in England, has made people quite confused about what they can and can’t do, and the logic behind the decisions.

Natasha, a primary school teacher from Richmond, asked Johnson a very good question, saying:

Where does seeing family again fit into the road map out of lockdown, and how is it logical that I, as a primary school teacher, can mix with the many returning children, but seeing my relatives is not allowed?

Johnson responded by thanking Natasha for everything she is doing as a teacher, before saying:

I think I just have to go back to what we were saying at the beginning, that there are new flexibilities to ensure that people can see somebody who isn’t in their household, but you have to do it one-on-one, outdoors, and obeying social distancing. 

So there is new scope to see one other member of your family outdoors, it may not sound like much but we have to keep this disease at bay and we have to advance very gradually.

He assured her that they would be working to make sure teachers have “total confidence” that they’ll be kept safe and would be publishing guidelines.

But he didn't exactly answer her question on the logic of the change...

Medical adviser Professor Chris Whitty then interjected and said that they were consulting on the matter and said it was very important that we have a “proper debate” on the issue. He ran through three strands of risk, in terms of children being at school, and concluded that pupils are probably less at risk than adults in that situation. Sir Patrick Vallance said that schools should reopen in a way that is “careful, step-by-step and measured”.

Later in the briefing, Whitty told The Guardian's Heather Stewart that schools do contribute "a certain amount" to the spread of disease and it's not yet known whether there's a difference in how young and old children carry and transmit the disease. Vallance said the evidence is "not entirely clear" yet on how children transmit the disease.

To be honest, though, it seemed like there was a distinct lack of detail in the answers to Natasha's rather crucial question, particularly from the PM.

Even the experts didn't seem sure what the consequences would be, which is honest but hardly reassuring given the circumstances.

This all prompts the rational question: if they aren't sure about the impacts of reopening schools, then why make the change?

After all, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are holding firm on the "Stay at Home" message, including schools.

The vague answers followed a day of contradictory answers from Dominic Raab and many, many questions from confused MPs in the House of Commons over what people can and can't do.

Looks like it's going to be a while before we have the clarity we're looking for.

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