COMING soon, the first anniversary of the Government’s suspension of our freedoms. Those of movement, association and the right to earn a living were squashed, schools closed, economic activity extinguished and the police deployed to ‘enforce the law’, even if their actions sometimes revealed they had little understanding of it.
In retrospect, perhaps the police deserve sympathy. Events of the past year have exposed the Government’s fundamental lack of leadership and competence. It framed policy and rules without reference to science, many of which were confusing and unenforceable.
Keen to accrue credit for ‘doing something’, but less keen on being responsible for any fallout, the Government transferred liability to others – notably the British people, condemning those who pushed back against its fatuous overkill.
Rather than the comprehensive rational response to a pandemic, one that had been planned for years, and had no lockdown, Britons have been exposed to an ad hoc Tory Party damage limitation programme. Expediency disguised as ethics.
The latest addition to this cowardly strategy emerged last month in the Department for Education’s operational guidance for the return to school. In essence it is a Health & Safety backside-covering exercise aimed at placating the teaching unions.
It also allows the Government to demonstrate that it ‘still takes Covid seriously’ whilst continuing to dodge difficult decisions. The fact is, like our supermarkets and food retail outlets last spring, schools are not vectors for coronavirus transmission.
This guidance imposes a huge logistical burden on schools, with full responsibility for success or failure resting squarely upon headteachers. They’ve been told: ‘You must implement sensible and proportionate control measures which follow the health and safety hierarchy of controls to reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level.’
There is no definition of that latter phrase, nor of what constitutes ‘sensible’ or ‘proportionate’. For me, forcing healthy children to undergo a series of invasive tests, and to wear masks for no proven value, is definitely neither.
The guidance maintains the Government’s credulous illusion of being able to achieve ascendency over a cold/flu virus, and rambles on in management-speak … ‘PHE advice remains that the way to control this virus is with the system of controls … if you follow the system of controls, you will effectively reduce risks … and create an inherently safer environment’.
It is the stuff of parody, which morphs into farce: ‘Minimising contacts and mixing between people reduces transmission of coronavirus … you must do everything possible to (do this) while delivering a balanced curriculum’.
Joseph Heller might have been proud of that one. Similarly, Mario Puzo would have enjoyed the line, ‘secondary schools should offer pupils testing …’
This document’s catechisms create environments of unprecedented dystopian bleakness, turning schools into laboratories of behavioural sociologists.
The consequences of the course that the Government embarked upon 12 months ago are many and well-known, but there are others that have not yet materialised, and these will principally play out for our young.
Last Friday, the plumber I was expecting phoned to excuse himself. He needed to pick up his five-year-old son from school because the child had been ‘coughing’ and had to be removed from the premises.
On arrival, he saw the little boy subdued but severely distressed and quickly realised why. The teacher handing him over was wearing full PPE, gloves and a respirator.
The school instructed them to get tested at a nearby town, and even if negative, the child could not return for ten days. The poor lad was confused and terrified, believing that he had something very seriously wrong with him. Doubtless over the next few weeks this cruel scene will be replicated across the country, for the school was simply following the Education Department’s guidance.
At my own child’s secondary school, the head is making ‘optional’ testing and mask-wearing in class pretty much mandatory. He has even invited those previously mask-exempt to ‘reconsider their choices’. He reminded pupils of the school’s ‘culture of service’ and their concomitant ‘duty to protect others’.
If headteachers’ burdens of organisation and responsibility are unduly heavy, then the moral burden presented to parents and pupils is also unreasonable. Either schools are safe and should open as normal, or they are not and should remain closed.
Surely a less severe, more practical and far more ethical solution exists. Could not each teacher be asked if they would tolerate the tiny risk of being fatally affected by the virus? Those willing could return to their vocation, those unwilling could be allowed to stay away until vaccinated.
This is the most ‘sensible and proportionate measure’, for it avoids upheaval, massive costs and having our children treated as pawns in a political game. Nor would they endure false positives that might keep them out of school for ten days, nor would the nation face another raft of asymptomatic ‘infections’ that can only prolong lockdown regulation.
So schools will become clinics, and teachers will become nurses; and having endured testing, our youngsters will traipse into classrooms masked-up and beaten down by a soulless set of rules designed to reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level.
No doubt some may question why I have consented for my child to be subjected to this. The answer is that denying consent affects her, not me.
During a fractious and tearful row, she insisted that she did not want to stand out, did not want her teachers to feel that she didn’t care about them and did not want to be considered a troublemaker. I cannot leave her exposed to that.
Later this year, it is highly likely that parents will be presented with another mandatory option. It seems inevitable that government will suggest that – for the greater good – children should receive a vaccine for an illness that does them no harm.
The imperative for this will be interesting. What will be the rationale for vaccinating children after teachers are protected by a vaccine? At this point, I shall certainly draw a line.
Apparently, two days of school has seen most secondary kids on emotional highs. This is both excellent news and bad news. The former because it’s cheering. It’s where they belong, and they’ve had too many of ‘the best days of their lives’ taken from them for insufficient reason – and I blame both the government and the unions.
It is ‘bad news’ because all the happiness shows how effective the government’s ‘browbeat and blackmail’, ‘don’t kill granny’ strategy has been. A moral imperative created from a blatant falsehood. Most parents and kids have not questioned it at all, and doubtless, this means the authorities will use it again.