CORONAVIRUS cases are now rising fast, driven by a new variant of the virus that has emerged in the UK and is much more easily transmittable than other strains.
A further 57,725 confirmed cases were announced by the government on Saturday. Also on Saturday, the government announced a further 445 deaths.
Hospitals across the UK are being told to prepare to face the same Covid pressures that have exploded in the NHS in London and south east England. This is the fifth day in a row that new daily cases have been over 50,000 and brings the total number of cases to 2,599,789.
In this situation the teaching trade unions have called for the closure of schools, while council leaders in Liverpool have called for a national lockdown to smash the virus, as was done in China.
The NASUWT stated it ‘remains of the view that schools and other settings should only remain open to all pupils where it is safe for them to do so.
‘The NASUWT will not hesitate to take appropriate action in order to protect members whose safety is put at risk and the union ‘is calling on the Minister of Education to move all education provision to remote education in light of the approaching new Covid strain’.
The NEU stated: ‘Whilst we are calling on the government to take the right steps as a responsible union we cannot simply agree that the government’s wrong steps should be implemented. That is why we are doing our job as a union by informing our members that they have a legal right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions which are a danger to their health and to the health of their school communities and more generally.’
Unison stated: ‘The union is joining with other education unions in demanding that remote learning should be introduced for pupils of primary schools across the country, in line with the delay for secondary schools.’
However, PM Johnson yesterday was adamant that parents should send their children to primary school today. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s city leaders are calling for a national lockdown, saying pre-emptive action needs to be taken to ‘prevent a catastrophe’ as the new Covid variant spreads.
Severe restrictions were introduced in the city in October, as well as a mass testing programme when high numbers of cases were identified. Those measures successfully brought down infection rates.
Now, the new strain is spreading northwards from where it was identified in the south. Cases in Liverpool have almost trebled in the past two weeks. Councillor Wendy Simon, acting mayor of Liverpool, told the BBC the tier system isn’t working and the city council wants action to be taken ‘before we get to crisis point in the city’.
‘We are trying to pre-empt that catastrophe from happening and take control in the city. To get those numbers down, we need to tackle this virus head on,’ she said, pointing to the pressure on frontline NHS services.
However, yesterday PM Johnson told the Andrew Marr Show ‘no doubt in my mind that schools are safe’, and that parents should send their children to primary school on Monday. One day after a record 57,725 new cases of the virus and 445 deaths he told Marr the risk to children was ‘very, very low’ and the benefit of education was ‘so huge’.
Most primary schools in England, except those in London and parts of the south east, are scheduled to open today. Johnson admitted: ‘And if you think about the history of the pandemic, we’ve kept schools going for a long, long time in areas where the pandemic has really been at really high levels.’
In a heated exchange, Boris Johnson conceded to Andrew Marr that the UK could have spent a year in lockdown to eradicate the virus – but the damage to the economy, people’s mental health and equality would have been ‘colossal’.
Johnson stands for the defence of capital, capitalism, and its profit-making. Its welfare is his only concern. His stand that children must be sent to school regardless proves the point. He in fact repeated there was no doubt in his mind schools were safe and the risk to children was ‘very small indeed’.
Johnson refused to answer the question of whether the government would take action against councils closing schools, saying they should be ‘guided by public health advice’. Of course he will take action!
In fact, it is the trade unions that must act fearlessly. They must close the schools and bring down the Johnson government with a general strike that will bring in a workers’ government and socialism, that will eradicate Covid-19 in record time.