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Scientists advising Boris Johnson “never discussed” the 10pm pubs curfew widely criticised as inadequate to curb the pandemic, a leading member of the Sage group says.
The comments from Professor Graham Medley, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine – who attends the Sage committee – fuelled a belief that the government adopted the measure alone.
“I never discussed it or heard it discussed,” he said of the 10pm shutdown – which was adopted instead of a tougher crackdown on household mingling.
The professor also chairs the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), which provides the government with detailed advice on response options.
His comment comes after another Sage number, Professor John Edmunds, said the 10pm curfew was “fairly trivial”, adding: “It will have very small impact on the epidemic.”
Meanwhile, London mayor Sadiq Khan is calling for a ban on households mixing for the capital’s 9 million residents – amid a belief that the prime minister will have to go further in the coming days.
From the start of the pandemic in March, ministers insisted they were “following the science” when defending their handling of it, but a gap between experts and politicians appears to be opening up.
“We put forward what we think works, but it’s the government which decides what package of measures to put forward and, in the end, it’s a societal decision.”
Furaha, 6, attends Buremba Primary School in Uganda. She is a member of the Batwa “Pygmy” tribe, forced out of their native home in the Bwindi Forest to make way for a national park. She lives a three-hour walk from her school. The construction of schools and training of teachers in remote areas of challenging geography ensures those hardest to reach have a right to education. Building Tomorrow Uganda through Partnership with Education Above All foundation has enrolled 53,373 out of school children back into quality primary education in Uganda. Paddy Dowling
A classroom in Uganda. Several developing nations, that introduced free and equitable learning for all, aimed at reducing poverty by equipping every child with the basic learning needs, saw enrolment virtually double overnight. This placed enormous strain on resources, swelling class sizes and underpaid, overworked teachers. Measures to provide adequate social distancing in settings already facing crowded classrooms managed by often underpaid and overworked teachers ‘post-Covid’ present additional challenges. Paddy Dowling
Josephine, 14, is an orphan and now lives with her aunt. She lost her parents and youngest sister to Aids. She was enrolled into education in 2017. Living far from school, she is forced to travel 4km to get there. Poverty remains a constant worry for Josephine as her aunt will not contribute to the additional costs for scholastic materials. When asked what it meant to her to have access to education she replied, “Being in school means I will face less hardship and have a less fragile future. I would much prefer to be in class than live at home with my aunt who tries to prevent my going to school. She wants me to get married.” Despite being three years behind she is catching up extremely quickly and ranking in the top five students out of 168 pupils. Paddy Dowling
Moza, 8, was born and raised east of the Tigris river that divides the city of Mosul. Her parents and five siblings have lived in a two-room concrete dwelling for 10 years. The family income is only £62 per month, which barely covers bills. They are forced to take credit from food shops. Moza was identified as being out of school and is due to enrol into school when the new term starts. However, at present, she cares for her mother who suffers respiratory problems due to a lodged bullet in her lung after being caught in crossfire during the conflict. She doesn’t know what to expect as she has never set foot in a classroom. Two years beyond the normal enrolment age of six, she still has great dreams of working with NGOs to help residents displaced from the city. Paddy Dowling
Alex, 13, explained: “I can no longer wash my clothes any more as they will fall apart”. He has no school uniform, unlike many schools in Tanzania, his school still allow him to attend class. Following the death of his father, he now lives with his mother and five siblings. She supports the family by working the fields as a farm hand. For him, poverty remains the greatest barrier to his education, having to walk four hours each way to school, meaning he is constantly tired at school. Challenging geographies is a major barrier to education in remote Africa. Paddy Dowling
A blackboard at Remagwe school in northwestern Tanzania. Today challenges to establishing an effective and stable education system persist. Assistance from international donors and partnerships helps the Tanzanian government achieve universal primary education and refurbish classrooms to improve the learning experience for children. Paddy Dowling
Ikiriza, 5, Kamwenge District, Uganda. Ikiriza who is five years old lives in a small house with his nine brothers and sisters. His parents can’t afford school tuition fees for all the children, leaving Ikiriza with little choice but to fund his own education by working weekends carrying plastic jerry cans of water from the lake for various households of the neighbourhood in Kamwenge district. For this, he earns the equivalent of 5 cents a day, which helps contribute towards his school fees at Bisozi Primary. He dreams of one day becoming a doctor so that he can help his father who suffers from ill health. Paddy Dowling
Ali, nine, a Syrian refugee family from Deir ez-Zor district in eastern Syria arrived in Lebanon in 2011. They fled their home with several neighbours by bus toward a safer haven in Lebanon at the outbreak of civil war, which tore through their country. Heavy shelling damaged the bus they were travelling in and the remainder of their journey had to be made on foot. Nine-year old Ali Ahmed’s father, an agricultural labourer explained that life in Lebanon was hard as they struggle to pay basic bills such as food and rent. As with most Syrian refugees, they are in debt to their landlords and to local shops owners. The collective family income is barely enough to cover any of their bills. Paddy Dowling
Chacha, 12, has never set foot in a classroom. He is one of a reported 1.89 million children in Tanzania who remain out of school. Chacha whilst not learning is working, seven days a week, scavenging gold from mining sites, digging up rocks containing gold-residue. To avoid being captured or shot by mining and government police for trespass, he works under the cover of darkness, 6pm to 6am. The rocks he finds, he sells to middle men, for approximately $2 per shift, who crush them to extract the gold. He explained: “I have no choice, I know the work is dangerous but I feel I have to help provide for my family. It makes me sad not being able to go to school.” Paddy Dowling
Children peering into a class at Bidibidi Refugee settlement in northern Uganda. Home to many families who fled the fierce fighting in South Sudan. Paddy Dowling
Mucunguzi Owen, 16, has been enrolled in Buremba School since 2007 and is one of eight siblings. His parents are farmers who work the land picking tea. Extreme are pressures placed on families to contribute ‘informal fees’ to their childrens education. The lack of uniform, scholastic materials or even not owning a pair of shoes can in some instances prevent children accessing education. Paddy Dowling
Jonas, 12, was born in a village situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, Tanzania. He now lives with his father, a fisherman, and his step-mother a farmer. Jonas enrolled into education after being identified by a survey reaching out to the community to help enrol out of school children. Jonas aged 10 at the time, was three years past the mandatory age of enrolment in Tanzania due to his families financial situation. Paddy Dowling
Professor Medley also warned there would be 100 coronavirus deaths a day in a few weeks’ time, given the current surge in infections.
“The treatments have improved, the way the virus is transmitting is going to be different, but nonetheless it is a dangerous virus and inevitably it will lead to some deaths,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“In February and March, we were essentially assuming 1 per cent of infections would lead to deaths. Now, even if that is 0.8 per cent – which I think would be a great success in terms of treatment – it still means that we are going to see deaths increase … in three or four weeks we are going to see 100 deaths a day.
“The things that we do now will not stop 100 people dying a day but they will stop that progressing much higher.”
Vaughan Gething, the health minister of Wales – where local lockdowns are being extended to Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli – said European holidays were helping to spread the virus.
“What we have seen is there has been a further breakdown in social distancing and, as more people have mixed, socialising outside the home and crucially within the home, that household indoor contact is what’s driving transmission events – together with some imported transmission, from European holidays in particular,” he said.
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News – Scientists advising Boris Johnson ‘never discussed’ 10pm pubs curfew plan, says Sage member