Latest lock down – Leveller comment
You have to have some sympathy for any government struggling in a pandemic. There is no doubt this has been a uniquely challenging time. Some of what has happened has been unpredictable. There have been challenges with hospital capacity, PPE and controlling the spread of the virus.
The task presented to government, to keep us safe has not been easy. Any government would have struggled, it would be wrong not to acknowledge that.
The position of government, often repeated, is that we are following the science. If this were true, it would be reasonable. Unless of course by following the science, what the government means is doing everything the scientists say, but several weeks after they say it.
Yesterday we saw another mess. There was no new scientific information available on Monday, that was not available to the government on Sunday. Despite that we allowed school children in Somerset to go to school on Monday. As a result a lot of people mixed quite unnecessarily with other people. Children were in contact with each other. The virus will have spread further than it needed to as children spread the virus to each other and so to their families – and vice versa.
On Monday night the Prime Minister closed all schools. That one day that Somerset children went to school was a policy disaster. It would be easy to blame Somerset County Council. It is our view that SCC took the wrong decision. However it was central government that gave them the opportunity. If an announcement had come on school closure on Sunday – the situation would have been avoided.
This is not the first time we have seen dithering, poor or even illogical decision making. Last year when hospitality businesses were allowed to open in July, there was no significant surge in the virus. In August there was the “Eat Out to Help Out Scheme”. Again no significant uptick in the virus. In September schools went back and shortly thereafter, rates of infection surged.
The government response was to keep schools open and restrict hospitality businesses to close at 10pm. None of the scientific advice available at the time suggested this as a solution. There was other advice available, all of which was ignored.
We have seen U turns over a half term lock down, Christmas arrangements and now over school closures. In each case the government was forced to change tack not because it was following the science, but because it ignored the science. And in the end the scientists and their predictions were correct.