The possibility of a lock-down looms over Sydney as the newest variant of Covid-19 evaded NSW quarantine aided by the various political failures of state and federal government. Like many people, I’ve come to live with and accept the reality that I have to live with a political class willing to experiment with a society in crisis. With 4% of Australian’s fully vaccinated, it would appear the July school holiday can’t come soon enough. Once again, teachers are excluded from any priority for vaccination, despite clear evidence that schools are major vectors for the Delta and Delta Plus variant of Covid-19. We might not die if we are vaccinated, but we are certainly at risk.
In early May, numerous public heath groups in the UK were expressing concern the UK Government was withholding data about growing infection rate in British schools. This is reminiscent of messaging by the UK government’s autumn and winter 2020 rhetoric where the mantra “schools are safe” was used repeatedly to rationalise the lack of mitigations in schools.
The summary being It is likely that lack of mitigations in schools played an important role in this highly transmissible, more virulent, escape variant gaining dominance rapidly across England.
In Australia, the media have not highlighted clear parallels with Australian education’s stance on keeping schools open. Recent news media has focused on the extra-ordinary wealth of private schools including keeping millions in JobKeeper payments, lack of staffing (note the on-going omission towards the number of casual and temp staff who can’t get permanency) and the ravings of Mark Latham which are not worth repeating.
Australia is not in a strong position to resist the growth of Delta and Delta plus variants at the national level and on-going issues with quarantine, mixed and selective political messaging in NSW has omitted the clear danger presented by schools and un-vaccinated staffing. Schools remain exempt from the rules applied to every other building in the state, with no social distancing going at whatsoever. While PPE (staff provided) is an option for some schools, the approach is to wash-hands and sanitize with no mention of the air-born nature of the current spread.
With thirty students in a room, or 600 at assembly, it is astonishing schools are ignoring WHO advice, where this deadly virus which is far more potent than previous variants can remain in the air for sixteen hours. The virus transmission does not need singing, coughing or sneezing to pass though the air, it simply lingers.
It’s fortunate that we are about to go on a two week break – but the reality is that schools have ‘snapped back’ to a point where they have again been isolated from reality and being a ‘good soldier’ means not questioning the lack of risk and duty of care being applied to a profession which for a brief moment, was clapped for moving online.