Leicester City Council: Listen to the Science Not the Tories

It is unbelievable but the lies and misinformation about how Covid-19 is reaping havoc in our communities are still being made in Leicester – the city with the highest per capita infection rate in the entire country. The culprit in this instance is Martin Samuels, the strategic director of social care and education for the Labour-run city council.

With infection rates in the city still over 200 cases per 100,000 population, Samuels is pushing ahead with schools reopening, but not just because the government says the council must do so but because he believes that students are less likely to contract Covid when packed sardine-like into classrooms than they are at home!

Earlier today he explained to the press that: “The odds are we will see a rise in the infection rate, but I don’t think it will be anything to do with the children.” He then went on to blame any future spread on parents “mixing at the school gates” and restated that the predicted increase in infections “will be nothing to do with children.”

This flies in the face of all evidence presented by trade unions and by the government’s own scientific advisors. Indeed, the SAGE report from December was clear on this, stating “that children and young people are more likely to bring the virus into the household than those aged 17+.” On February 11, SAGE recommended a phased reopening of schools.

Moreover, the city’s education boss was making these statement the day after “Leicester South MP and shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth warned the city was facing the ‘double whammy’ of high infection but relatively low vaccination rates.”

Just to restate what is blindingly obvious.

When infection rates increase so do death rates, with deaths primarily falling amongst the elderly, that is, the grandparents of school children. Next, children do get infected with Covid-19 at significant levels, but for the most part such infections occur largely without the children exhibiting any symptoms which means they can unwittingly pass the infection on to family members and other children.

And finally, in other countries, like for example the United States, official health bodies like their Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that when infection rates exceed 50 cases per 100,000 population then to reduce transmission within schools, they should only be partially open on a ‘hybrid’ rotor system!

Socialist Alternative calls for:

  • A phased return to schools with class sizes restricted to a maximum of 15 pupils
  • Mask wearing for all with proper classroom ventilation
  • When infection rates are between 50-100 per 100,000 schools should move to rotas to enable smaller class sizes and those at risk to be given the option to work from home.
  • Reliable weekly testing carried out by health professionals
  • Schools only to return when the R rate remains below 1 and community infection rates are below 100 per 100,000
  • Full risk assessments in workplaces involving full trade union consultation
  • For the use of Section 44 letters and the sanction of industrial action ballots where staff are placed in unsafe working environments
  • For the provision of PPE and track test and trace to be placed under the control of the NHS
  • Work or full pay for all those furloughed or self isolated
  • For bringing into public ownership the major banks and financial institutions – capitalism can’t be trusted to take us out the crisis
  • Time for an end to an economy that puts profit before people – build a mass movement against the Tory government and for a socialist future

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