15 May 2020
Speaking after a meeting with the scientific panel advising Government on Covid-19, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“We are pleased with today’s engagement, but very many questions that we asked were not addressed in the time available. We think it is very important that all the questions are answered and in public written form. This is important for transparency and for other scientists to comment on.
“We are pleased that Sir Patrick Vallance told the National Education Union that information and papers from SAGE would be published and that they will prioritise its release. We have also asked to see any commentaries or papers produced by Public Heath England that comment on the Department for Education’s guidance.
“We were told that we are in the foothills of knowledge and there is still a lot of uncertainty about the science, for example, we were told children’s likelihood to transmit Covid-19 is not more than adults but only that it may be less than adults. Just yesterday the Office of National Statistics suggested that age does not affect the likelihood of being infected. Today we heard that there are cases where children do act as the index case.
“Amongst questions that we feel we still have no understandable answer to are:
How they will know the effect on the R rate of the current lifting of lockdown before further steps are taken?
What are the conditions that need to have been achieved before any wider opening of schools e.g. is there a particular daily case count that they are hoping for?
Why our country seems alone in saying that social distancing is not necessary in schools? We were not presented with any scientific evidence to justify the decision not to include social distancing in the guidance to English schools whereas it is an important part of the guidance in other countries, in fact we were told that they have evidence that children have passed the disease to adults.
“Subsequent to the meeting, I have written to the scientific panel with our urgent questions. (See editor’s note)
“We are very pleased that the British Medical Association have this afternoon announced their support for our five tests for the safe reopening of schools.”