Continuing the discussion from London going into Tier 3:
London & South East going into Tier 4, schools delay reopening
Sainsburys is going to be a war zone tomorrow.
Why? Demand for small turkeys?
London is usually abandoned over Christmas, everyone who had planned to go away is now stuck in London with no festive food and no delivery slots available. Plus people just love a little panic buy, don’t they?
Bell Green was very busy about an hour ago with long queues.
Every cloud has a silver lining folks. At least the aggressive beggar (TAB) will not be able to approach anyone outside of his support bubble.
This may be far more hassle than it’s worth, but is there anyone who now can’t have a planned big gathering and has a load more food than they need for Christmas? If so, I (and possibly lots of others…) might be able to buy any surplus to avoid wasting anything/having to battle it out at Sainsbury’s. Let us know!
Or any businesses that can’t open too, would be happy to avoid waste and offset business’ losses as much as possible.
I can assure you that London is not usually abandoned over Christmas, Estelle. I’m always here, and I’m never alone. Lots of people at midnight mass - though probably not this year. Perhaps you’re thinking of young people who would normally go home to stay with parents?
If people suddenly have extra, is there a charity that would take it and distribute to poorer families?
The Foodbank on Malham Road - if it’s non-perishable. When I was taking my donation during the week, the queue to collect was going down the street.
I’m sure they would be grateful for anything you could offer.
Was in Bell Green Sainsbury’s earlier today - plenty of stock on the shelves, no queue to get in. Even the car charging spots were available, which I was pleasantly surprised by.
Feeling quietly smug that we made no plans to see anyone over the festive period, despite previously being “allowed” to.
Demand for everything imported. now there’s a blockade of Britain.
As you may have heard in the media, we declared an internal incident at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) on Sunday 27 December as a precautionary step due to the high number of Covid-positive patients we are seeing at the hospital. We have been following our plan to cope with a second wave of Covid-19 and are working closely with hospital and healthcare partners in south east London.
All our patients have received the treatment they need, including intensive care treatment for Covid-19 and oxygen therapy as required. We are continuing to monitor the situation to ensure that this remains the case.
Someone we know who works in the NHS said they were unable to get ambulances yesterday to move patients - I think yesterday was particularly bad for ambulance demand in London.
The next few months (or more) before enough people get vaccincated look like they are going to be very difficult.
On Monday primary schools in Lewisham will be open (secondary schools will be closed). Schools in Bromley and Southwark will be closed.
Good job the virus sticks to borough boundaries otherwise we would all be in trouble.
I think these decisions may be based on current and predicted hospital pressure, which is more of a geographic thing.
Still, if the new variant(s) are so contagious, I agree that delaying opening of all schools would be sensible - though it should be coupled with a commitment to reduce summer holidays so education isn’t lost. Make hay while the sun shines as it were.
Those primaries that do open could easily be self-limiting though; a few confirmed cases can easily put a class or year into self-isolation.
Interesting also is the profile of cases by age in London (though maybe it should be compared against number of tests and population at each age bracket):
Lewisham and Greenwich are surrounded by the following boroughs, all of which will have primary schools closed initially:
Barking and Dagenham
Greenwhich as we may remember wanted to close schools before Christmas due to high numbers of cases but were threatened with legal action if they proceeded.
It seems only a metter of time before Lewisham follows suit.
My personal preference would be for all primary schools to give children the opportunity to do online learning where possible. So key workers, vulnareable children still go in, as do those who can’t be home schooled for various reasons, which if done for 3 months or so you would hope would significantly reduce interactions and tranmission and we would come out at the other end with many more people vaccinated, and hopefully all those working in schools.
I think extending the school term would make sense. Of course this would be additional work for teachers but might be something that has to be looked at.
I’m unsure what factors are taking into consideration in these decisions, and suspect some will be ‘judgement calls’. Seeing that as per my link above it seems there is already stress in Lewisham and Greenwich hospitals, and in view of the issues in surrounding areas, it does seem surprising Lewisham (and Greenwich) have remained open.
I will admit an elelment of hypocracy on my behalf, whilst I am on one hand suggesting schools might consider closing (well educating from home) I am also considering sending my son back to his football training and matches which are due to start up again in early January (though of course you can’t remote train those and it’s all outdoors etc).
No easy decisions, but with the vaccine at hand, you’d think at least some flexibility for schools and pupils in them would be a step forward and would reduce the tramission rates in view of the new variant.
EDIT - I should add I’m talking primarily schools here, secondary schools I imagine are more difficult especially for those expecting to take exams this year.
Just to add a couple of things:
I’m not sure how much notice should be paid to the desires of Greenwich council in this. As far as I can tell Greenwich did not have particularly high incidence in December, just a different attitude to it.
Many of these children have low attendance during normal times, a problem which is exacerbated whilst school is optional.
That may be true but it is also a stupid way to look at it. Kings and St Thomas are in Lambeth, Guys is in Southwark, Lewisham in Lewisham. People in south of Southwark are more likely to go to Kings than to Guys. If this really was based on hospital capacity then it should be arranged by postcode not borough in high population density areas.
I think Lewisham and Lambeth should follow the advice given to Southwark.
Stupid or not, lines have to be drawn somewhere if there’s to be any attempt to balance education and welfare of pupils with infection control, noting it’s only the return of primary schools which are being selectively delayed.
I don’t however think the remote learning stuff is a good substitute for the classroom. It’s certainly better than nothing, but even if a school and teachers have done their best to adapt (and arguably not all have), practical lessons don’t necessarily translate into a remote approach, and depending on the home situation, and I’m not sure remote teaching gives the same opportunities to each child either.
I’d favour extending Christmas and Easter holidays for all education, but taking the lost time back out of the summer holidays - assuming the situation is improved by then (which it definitely should, given the vaccination programmes together with less seasonal pressure on healthcare).
Consider yourselves lucky that it’s not a London-wide decision, and that some schools are open.
The situation in Kent with Swale (Covid hotspot) causing lockdown miles away in Tunbridge Wells (low rates) was very frustrating, and people rightly called for more granularity in Government modelling.
Even Lewisham Council aren’t thrilled with the idea of keeping the schools open:
People who benefit from schools being open:
People who benefit from schools being closed:
- everyone else
- parents who do not want to send their kids to school at the moment
- children who would suffer adverse effects after catching COVID at school
As far as it is possible to tell from the available government data, cases reported locally seem to have peaked around the week up to Christmas at around 1,000 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 confirmed by tests (excluding any that haven’t been tested as well as asymptomatic cases). It’s possible that more recent data not in the public domain may have informed the decision not to close schools in Lewisham, but we don’t know (and neither does the local council by the sounds of it).
I know from personal experience that school and nursery settings appear to have been the driver for a large proportion of these numbers locally. And that’s not factoring in any potential onward transmission.
Given the increasing levels of desperation expressed by those working in hospital and care settings, I’m not sure how “lucky” I should feel about schools continued to be open. I can see both sides of the argument though.
And parents who would suffer if their children infected them after having picked up the virus at school.
I worded it this way because those parents can make a decision around that risk now and choose one of the other groups. The kids don’t get to make a decision.
I’m not sure this is a surprise though. Recall last time schools were closed, Lewisham Cllr Chris Barnham (Cabinet Member for School Performance and Children’s Services) wrote an open letter to all the Head Teachers to say they could do what they wanted with respect to re-opening, rather than suggesting they should follow the central Government policy at that time:
Very interesting thanks. I wonder if that means parents wouldn’t be charged if they choose to keep their child out of primary school (citing Covid risk as reason)?
That letter was from May, so I’m not sure what the current situation is with fines for non-attendance, but I personally think it would be reasable to waive them if there are vulnerable family members.
Of course, closing all primaries in London would simplify that situation and make for a more effective break, but I feel there really needs to be a plan to replace lost time by extending terms into summer holidays.
Did you notice how this was this barely ever mentioned for Q3? We were going on holidays and eating subsidised meals… seemed like a no-brainer.
With luck summer holidays will be possible this year and everybody needs them. Two weeks of primary education can be made up over two terms although we have already seen some of the more creative subjects reduced and other subjects are not practical in a covid situation.
But when the situation is so serious in Southwark and Bromley, the government owe parents an explanation about what makes Lewisham so safe. I have four days to decide if the scientific evidence supports sending my 10 year old child to school when it would not be acceptable if her school was 200m over the Southwark border and 11 year olds will not be in school in Lewisham.
Are your thoughts around your family’s safety driven by the new variant? Or just the increased prevalence of the ‘old’ covid?
I’m not sure.
I’m not even sure that the new strain is more transmitable - i have a suspicion that transmission rates would have been similar for any form of covid given the changes since September - schools opening, universities opening, pubs opening, allowing of mixing at Christmas, lack of mask enforcement on public transport, and winter weather.
BBC have just quoted a hospital leader saying that people who don’t follow the rules have ‘blood on their hands’ but what about the people who make up he rules and demand that primaries in Lewisham open when the covid rate in the area is greater than in other parts of London where the schools are closed?
Agree with many of these points, but I think the strongest evidence of it’s higher transmissibility is it’s growth relative to the ‘old’ variant.
Whilst it would be nice(!?) to see more explanation of the decision making we have now started talking about ‘protecting the NHS’, which has little to do with our young family members safety whilst at school.
There are going to be borders between tiers all over the country, and the same conundrum faces people on any border. I hope people don’t waste valuable government resources challenging the rules or demanding explanations.
Interesting theory which is totally unfounded, but I heard one idea that the normal reopening of primary schools in some boroughs may have been to provide a ‘control’ against other similar boroughs to help evaluate the effect of opening or closing primaries. It seems a bit dicey, but without any other explanation, the direction is definitely hard to fully understand.
I also heard the Government may do a u-turn later today and delay all Primary Schools re-opening in London, oh and Elvis lives!
Since epidemiologists identify a new mutation of Covid as being between 55% and 70% more transmissible due to the way it attaches to cells, I’m a bit confused about what scientific basis you have to suggest that this is not so. What lab studies have you been involved in?
Was thinking the same way but the report from Imperial about this Variant of Concern suggests the strain is more transmissible:
The substantial transmission advantage we have estimated the VOC to have over prior viral lineages poses major challenges for ongoing control of COVID-19 in the UK and elsewhere in the coming months. Social distancing measures will need to be more stringent than they would have otherwise. A particular concern is whether it will be possible to maintain control over transmission while allowing schools to reopen in January 2021.
You are right that i haven’t read all the scientific evidence and i don’t really doubt that there is a new strain that is being transmitted faster than previous strains. But it is worth remembering the other key factor in transmission which is social distancing. Even with a more virulent strain the case count appears very closely associated with reopening schools, universities and pubs.
@ForestHull 's suggestion that Lewisham has been picked as a control group, while it seems plausible, has no evidence, and will increase concern amongst parents, children and teachers.
I hope that the government or the council will make a decision today about a London wide school closure but it is unfortunate that teachers will have so little time to prepare for the switch to online learning.
This has been foreseeable for 9 months. A lack of time to prepare is not a valid excuse (in my book).
The new variants make social distancing far more important than before because of the much greater ease of transmission. I think opening schools is a mistake. Children get and transmit the disease. The fewer social interactions we have, the better.
As someone who teaches online (in HE), I can tell you that doing so is very different from in the classroom. Switching quickly from one to another is time-consuming. I have been lucky because I have been teaching online since April, but friends and colleagues are finding the uncertainty wearing. Everything should go online and stay that way for the time being, for everyone’s safety.
The better for reducing the chance of health service collapse and preventing covid deaths, not the better for many other ailments, individuals wellbeing & happiness, the economy and a load of other things which also matter.
If you have a car accident, a heart attack, etc., you won’t get the treatment you need if the hospitals are overwhelmed.
I’m sorry that people get trapped indoors and are unhappy about it. Being dead, or having friends and family dead, is not a great alternative to this. Killing others because of the desire to mix is also not a fantastic outcome.
Having large numbers of people dying and becoming disabled longterm will also not be good for the health service or the economy.
I know people have to make sacrifices, and it’s not easy, but it’s necessary. And frankly there have been situations in the past when people have had to sacrifice a lot more than they’re having to at the moment.
There simply is no cost-free approach without major downsides. A long lockdown has severe impacts including mental health, suicide, domestic violence, which will increase further if large swathes of the economy closes. But relaxing has very serve impacts also with COVID cases increasing - and as has been said if the health service is overwhelmed or at least has to concentrate solely on COVID then it can’t treat other things whether accidents or cancer treatment.
Two things that have really changed is the new strain is more infection and the cases are rising very sharply. The other of course is the vaccines being ready to roll-out (provided they are effective).
So it feels to me like the least worst (but not without drawbacks) for Jan / Feb is a strict lockdown and vaccine as quickly as possible. There will then be a delicate discussion as to when you can relax (when all over 70 vaccinated, over 60, over 50 etc) - that will be the big debate around March I think - again there will be no perfect answer.
I remember R4 programmes on the Spanish Flu in 1919 - and how the impacts rippled throughout the 1920s - in medical, economic and mental health terms. It will be the same with COVID.
And unfortunate for parents who have to try and figure out what to do with kids while also trying to work. Late decisions benefit no one.
I think it may also be worth considering that trials of Covid vaccines on children (under 16) has only recently seen any focus, so while school staff could be vaccinated, we need to figure out a plan for children without relying on the vaccination in the immediate or short term.
Is this a straw man argument?
I’m not arguing against lockdowns per se, just for a rigorous consideration of the costs, benefits and risks. The government are (I think) claiming to be attempting that and I now see many comments that regarding Lewisham schools where the gist of them is ‘others London schools are closed, we should be too’. Saying ‘the health service might be overrun, we must lockdown’ is an egregious oversimplification.
Just to brighten up your New Years Day - if they are of a certain age / occupational status the reverse is probably true.
I watched the emergency statement and press conference by Indie Sage earlier this week. Their modellers are projecting an almost incredible 100k further deaths by end of June if additional national emergency actions are not taken.
Their recommended actions for Government are set out below. This includes closing schools thru January. And a proper test track trace and isolate process.
That’s v true. And yet it’s a good idea that two of you have raised.
That’s fair, but from my perspective, it’s not schools in Enfield are closed so Lewisham should also, it’s what the logic in all primary schools around Lewisham and Greenwhich boroughs being closed, where people will share resources and transport etc, to leave prmiary schools open. My unscientific gut feeling is this is a mistake.
Is it though? We are effectively in lockdown already, we are not going from nothing to lockdown, so the question is how much difference would closing schools for a short (or longer) period make. If we looked at this over the next 12 months what should we do now that would give everyone the best outcome over the next 12 months, and maybe even longer.
I know there are no easy answers here but on the face of this it seems strage at best. Of course none of us can see some of the data and projections around all sorts of issues which may justify having schools open or not.
Perhaps that’s the whole point - maybe London can afford to have x% of it’s schools open with acceptably low risk of NHS collapse.
Well maybe but I’m not convinced personally! Granted just guesswork.
Interesting. I think it’s probably the right decision but a surprising u-turn (if it turn out to be true) one day after it was announced.
I agree with very much of what you say ( and am going to be as careful as I can to avoid having a bike accident or similar right now).
BUT when we are talking about some groups of people who may have had almost no real face to face interaction with other people for nearly a year, I think it’s worth recognising that if people are struggling emotionally with serious loneliness and isolation, that is a problem that can’t be dismissed. It is part of the wider picture, and the need to balance managing the virus with mitigating the impact that lockdown type measures have on individuals and businesses across. But I think its only fair to recognise that it’s a problem even if ultimately having to accept that measures that prolong this lonely and isolated way of living are needed in order to try to get a bit of control over the virus.
It’s good to see the government has stopped wasting everybody’s time and energy - including teachers, key workers, children and parents.
The government has better things to do than set up rules that they are unable to justify. Hopefully the schools and government can now plan for best possible online learning and a return to classrooms as soon as this wave reduces.
I have seen virtually no one for nearly a year (had an injury in Feb so my lockdown has been a month longer than everyone else’s). I seen friends only three times in person in the last year (always outside). I haven’t eaten in a restaurant and barely been in a shop. I can’t go to the library (main tool of my trade). Yes, it’s hard, but I need to do it to protect myself and others. Of course I recognise things like this are hard on people (and I am not unknown to NHS mental health services myself). But we have to do it. I get so angry with people who say we don’t, or that their “freedoms” matter more than their responsibilities.
Well I am not saying either of those things. I am simply saying that I don’t think we can just dismiss the fact that for some people this is a real mental health risk and that not everyone is as strong as you sound to be. I think if we don’t recognise that there are also risks associated with the measures designed to prevent the spread of the virus, and try to find ways to address those without compromising disease control,we are going to have a lot of other problems and very probably lives lost from other causes as well as the impact on life and health of Covid-19 itself.
There is no doubt it’s a hugely difficult problem and the solutions are neither easy nor simple.
I’m getting used to them
With all that has been said in this discussion one thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that we ALL need to abide by the rules, stay at home, wear a mask, wash our hands frequently & not mix with other householders. I am very sad that I haven’t seen much of any of these things being done especially over Christmas & the New Year. In my area most of my neighbours have either had visitors or been out visiting.
If we want to get back to some sort of normality the restrictions apply to us all.
Our children are all our futures we owe it to them to help in anyway we can to get them back to school. By not sticking to the restrictions & get this virus beaten we are affecting all children’s & young peoples futures, so please stick to the rules. People who are asymmetric may think that this virus will not affect them but it has & will continue to do great damage may be not medically but it will have a big affect on their future life.
The vaccine will help but it is going to take many months to get some reduction of the now very high infection rate & increasing deaths.
Sorry should be asymptomatic, predictive text is a nightmare
To be fair I feel pretty asymmetric a lot of the time at the moment!
This calculator estimates from a few qualifying questions when you might expect to get a vaccine on current trajectories. September for me. Hoping for a big improvement on that!
January 2022 for me!!!
They are basing it in 1 million per week though, which I expect will need to be higher, especially as people might start needing a 2nd jab next winter if for example it o ly lasts a year / a slightly new vaccine is needed.
Yes we are v short of information about when these vaccines will be available. Summed up quite well here:-
“Here, the signs are less encouraging. Boris Johnson was asked last week how many vaccine doses are going to be made available over coming weeks but claimed exact answers would be unhelpful. Nothing could be further from the truth. The nation needs to know - specifically – how many doses are going to be administered week by week. Will it be a million? If so, we will have to wait a long time before lockdown ends. Or is it going to be 2m doses a week? In this case, an enjoyable summer would look a more realistic prospect. (Nor is vaccinating two million people a week that difficult. We inoculate against flu every winter on a similar scale.) A lot depends on these figures and Britain now needs to be told if we have the supply chain to match the efforts of our scientists and doctors. In blunt terms, our hopes of ending our misery rest on being given an accurate account of those numbers.”
If Boris were to give exact numbers then his detractors would pounce on them and cry foul the moment the actual figures differed.
What we need is a best efforts approach, and for the public and the media to constructively participate in information dissemination and volunteering.
Political point scoring and criticising every move the government makes is not helpful to anyone except the political opposition
It’s not unreasonable to ask for a plan, though, is it?
It would be nice if the media could actually convey the messaging from the government directly so we can hear the plans. As opposed to wasting airtime with the opinions and interpretations of journalists - who are usually just exploiting opportunities to criticise the government.
For those who are sincerely interested in information on the vaccination programme, it can be found here:
Demanding numbers and holding politicians over hot coals is not a constructive way to help with the national vaccination programme. What’s more important is that people:
- volunteer to help: https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/join-the-nhs-covid-19-vaccine-team/
- turn up to appointments
- help convey government guidance to their friends and relatives
- avoid distractions, party political spin, political point scoring etc
Hopefully it wil be a regulated process, not a me-first rush
“In December, it was revealed that Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, received teh vaccine before his allotted time slot by queuing at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham at the end of the day.”
And as the article says, the accusation was wrong! He didn’t.
While the Government often seem to be acting in a reactive manner, I think there is a plan (test, isolate & vaccinate), just not described to a level of detail that would satisfy everyone.
The dashboard data is quite transparent though, and they have committed to adding vaccination numbers with weekly updates. From https://www.gov.uk/government/news/over-600000-people-get-first-dose-of-pfizerbiontech-vaccine :
Note the data isn’t on that dashboard yet, but the NHS has a publication here (see the PDF link at the bottom of the page):
So in 19 days they have vaccinated almost 800,000 people in the UK. While we need a higher rate than that, I would say that’s a pretty good start and they’ve hit the ground running.
Hopefully vaccinating the most vulnerable first will ease healthcare pressure and we can start to get on with things again. And note you don’t need to have been vaccinated yourself to benefit from vaccination.
One did (Mahmood)
One didn’t (Zahawi)
Interesting but of reporting as you are invited to get the vaccine, you can’t just turn up. I know this as my 90 year old father in law received his on day one after being contacted by the local hub. Whilst he was there a number of people were turned away for not having an invite. Colour me sceptical!
But as the article points out, one MP did show up, hoping for a jab, and was not turned away. So he got away with it.
And as I said, I question the validity of that given the strict criteria of covid invites.
The story is confirmed in Daily Express, Daily Mail, Birmingham Mail, Spectator etc.
Agreed but that is not what happened here.
This man did not jump a queue, he joined one. He attended a hospital to assist someone who was also vulnerable and had a scheduled jab. On the day there were no shows and left over vaccine at the hospital that had to be used or it would be useless within hours.
As he was there and was himself in a very vulnerable category the hospital assessed him and allocated him to be vaccinated. Another very vulnerable person protected. Good news, no?
He did not tell anyone he was an MP, he joined a queue for leftover vaccine that the hospital was managing. Numerous attempts have been made by the press to smear this man’s actions , imply it was some kind of misuse of power and imply some kind of moral wrongdoing.
There are plenty of places to point fingers at misuse of power without attacking a man with a kidney transplant for being vaccinated against a deadly disease.
The truth will always come out. Sectors of our press are an embarrassment.
I hope that will be the case regarding huge value PPE contracts awarded without competition, transparency or due diligence.
I wouldn’t hold your breath. Same as awarding a multi-million pound ferry contract to a company that doesn’t own any ferries.
We are still waiting to hear about the failed IT system so good luck.
Neither of us was there, but I think this is a generous interpretation. Public figures need to set an example. If he’s had a kidney transplant - a very resource-intensive procedure - and was himself vulnerable, then he had no business going to a hospital (centre of Covid infection) without an appointment. Someone else could have accompanied the person he was assisting. I would have to infer that he was there to try and get the vaccine, even though he had not yet received notification of an appointment: a deliberate plan, not a happy accident.
I really don’t get why you are pressing on this, there is a pretty clear statement above.
How do you know someone else could have assisted the other vulnerable person?