UK News

Government’s “alarming” approach “will abandon children at Covid risk”, union says UK News

The government’s “alarming” approach to easing restrictions will leave children at risk of Covid, a teachers’ union said.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced on Tuesday he was removing rules that require large numbers of students to stay home if even one is infected with Covid-19.

He told the House of Commons he was ending the use of so-called “bubbles” in schools once the other lockdown rules end on July 19.

Read more:Self-isolation rules change

Responding to the announcement, UNISON North Regional Secretary Clare Williams said: “The government’s alarming approach is abandoning children to a highly transmissible virus that is spreading at an unprecedented rate in schools.

“Safety measures such as bubbles and self-isolation have been shown to reduce the spread of the virus.

“With around one in ten students reporting symptoms long weeks of Covid after infection, this is a dangerous gamble on the part of the government.

“The only way to minimize the risk is to maintain proven safety measures like masks, good ventilation and self-isolation.

“Allowing the virus to spread rapidly among unvaccinated students provides an ideal environment for the emergence of new variants. “

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Gavin Williamson has announced the end of bubbles and self-isolation, following the removal of masks in mid-May, without even a replacement with daily contact tests.

“Instead, the NHS Testing Tracker will contact children who test positive to ask who their close contacts are and then ask those contacts to take a PCR test. However, these close contacts will not have to isolate themselves while awaiting this PCR test.

“Principals will agree not to be responsible for student testing, but will share NEU’s concerns about the effectiveness of a public test tracking and traceability system and how well it will control cases in schools. Schools have so far been the most effective part of the test tracking and tracing system.

“It seems clear that the government’s policies are based on a new form of herd immunity strategy – they hope that increasing vaccination rates and increasing infection rates over the summer will eventually do. lower cases simply because there is no one left to infect.

“They hope that hospitalizations and deaths do not increase, that other variants that escape vaccination do not present themselves, and that the debilitating illnesses of Covid and Long Covid do not become common in children.

“The government should seek to improve ventilation in schools by providing CO2 monitors and HEPA air filters, planning asymptomatic mass testing in schools organized by PHE and encouraging JCVI to present its thinking on immunization of children. high school age children.

“We can all hope for the best, but now we have to plan for something that is less than the best.”

Gavin Williamson told MPs that starting August 16, children will only need to self-isolate if they have tested positive for Covid-19.

His comments came after the Covid-linked student absence from schools in England reached a new record since classes fully returned in March.

According to statistics from the Department of Education (DfE), around one in 12 public school students (8.5%) did not attend classes for reasons related to Covid-19 on July 1, compared to 5.1 % on June 24 and 3.3% on June 17.

Current rules state that children must self-isolate for 10 days if another student in their bubble – which may be an entire class in high school – tests positive for the coronavirus.

In addition to ending the bubbles, Mr Williamson said it will “not be necessary to stagger start and end times” in schools.

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