Andy Richardson: 'We have no effective control over spread of Covid'
Here’s something we can say with absolute confidence. The economy is going nowhere until the virus is fixed.
Britain’s economy has performed far worse than the economies of other advanced nations, including the USA, Spain and those with similarly poor track records on Covid-19.
Until the virus is under control – and that means ‘until there is a vaccine’ – it’s a case of damage limitation for Rishi Sunak.
The economic juggernaut that is Brexit may one day bring us the riches that pro-Leave campaigners led voters to believe in. But that day may not come for 30, 40 or 50 years. In the short term, Brexit will hit our economy hard as businesses struggle with delays, red tape, tariffs and smaller margins. And those are on top of the effects of Covid-19.
Here’s something else we can say with absolute certainty. Track and trace is a shambles. The world-class system promised by Boris Johnson is world-class only in its ineptitude. Call centres are reaching fewer than half of the people they need to trace and plans for an app appear to be in the long grass.
The outcome is simple: we have no effective control over the spread of the virus.
Here’s a third thing we can say with certainty. The return of all secondary school pupils to the classroom will increase the transmission of Covid-19. Figures from America along with research into transmissibility among older pupils shows what most fair-minded people had already figured out: older pupils will spread the virus like adults.
Public Health England has reported that older pupils are most likely to get infected, have silent infection, transmit infection and get sicker. The effects are easy to understand: pupils will take the virus home and spread it among older relatives while teachers will be at risk. Little wonder two thirds of families are worried about sending their kids back to the classroom. Boris Johnson wants all pupils at their desks next month but faces a huge battle to achieve that.
The unions will want assurances that lives will not be lost if and when schools re-open. The families of returning pupils will want similar assurances. It will be politically disastrous for Mr Johnson if schools stay closed. Expect all parties to blame each other as the date looms. It will be a long time before normality returns.
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