Leicester City Council’s Public Health Consultant Rob Howard says “our schools are really, really quite safe”?!

Leicester City Council’s public health consultant Rob Howard was on BBC Radio Leicester yesterday morning talking about the still very high Covid infection rates in Leicester. He pointed to some of the obvious reasons why infection rates remain so high, which include Leicester’s high rates of poverty, and noted that they are currently investigating whether the high rates in the North West of the city may be due to workplace spread.

On a more problematic note, Howard echoed the belief of the Council’s strategic lead for education, Martin Samuels, who is promoting the misinformed line that given the full reopening of schools (on March 8) it will not be children packed into classrooms who represent the main risk for future growth in infections but parents mixing at school gates! He forgets to mention that most secondary school children and college age students are not accompanied to the school gate by their parents, but instead will be travelling to school on packed buses. As Howard said during his radio interview:

“We are concerned about anything that might lead to an increase in infections, but our schools are really, really quite safe. There is always a risk, but it is really important, or so we think, that our children also get educated and come together; there is a big mental health impact of people being isolated for so long. So, we are working really closely with our schools who are doing a fantastic job of making that environment as safe as possible, but it’s also, probably more importantly, about talking to parents about things like not gathering outside school gates; because you haven’t seen people together for a long time, they may be tempted to go off and have a coffee together or whatever. So, it’s really important that not just the children but parents and everyone continues to stick to the rules.”

Howard and Samuels need to face up to reality. Children represent an important means by which the virus spreads throughout our community and so Howard and Samuels should stop pre-emptively blaming parents. Instead, what Howard and Samuels should really be doing is challenging the Tories ongoing attempts to force schools in Leicester to reopen before it is safe to do so. They might also encourage our Labour-run Council to do the sensible thing and delay school reopening for a week or two, until infection levels fall to a safe level.

For a very useful explanation of how children spread Covid see the first 15min of this brilliant video:

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