Local Lib Dem Councillors and MPs have been watching the rising number of cases of the new coronavirus variant with increasing concern since before Christmas.
On Saturday James Walsh, the Lib Dem Leader on West Sussex County Council, a former GP, and the Education Spokesperson Cllr Kirsty Lord, wrote to the WSCC Cabinet Member for Schools expressing their concern about the increasing numbers of local cases, particularly amongst young people, and the implications for opening schools on Monday. They asked for assurances that West Sussex Schools were safe to open this week for teachers, children and their families, and that primary school reopening would not cause an increase in cases in the county.
On Sunday, Daisy Cooper MP, Parliamentary Spokesperson on Education, called on the Government to delay opening schools until 18th January and use that time to ‘get ahead of the virus’ and publish a clear plan to open schools safely, saying, “The Tories have squandered every opportunity to get ahead of the virus and are wreaking havoc on people’s lives.”
Many people who saw even the highlights of the Prime Minister’s interview on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday felt certain that Boris Johnson would be making a very early u-turn on his assurances that schools would open on Monday, and remain open.
Many parents decided off their own bat to keep their children home from school because they saw the risks as unacceptable.
And many people questioned why the precautionary principle was not being applied. If schools had not opened this week, children would have remained in their households and would not have had a day mixing with their classmates and teachers for the new, highly infectious, strain of the virus to spread. Even on Monday morning, Matt Hancock was assuring us that schools were safe and the best place for children to be.
Lib Dem WSCC Councillor Morwen Millson said, “The Prime Minister has now admitted on live TV that schools help spread the virus. And yet, with a new strain that is out of control, he was happy to send pupils and teachers into classrooms, putting lives at risk. This is unforgivable.”
Boris Johnson has completely lost control of the Covid-19 crisis. Over and over again, he has ducked the hard choices. His dither and delay have cost lives and livelihoods. This government has abdicated its key responsibility, which is to make the tough decisions for the future good of the country.
The Liberal Democrats support the Government’s new lockdown and hope that despite its late implementation, it will work. In the meantime, we wish parents and teachers well in trying to plan their lives at work and home in the next few weeks.