Sat 17 Oct 2020: high risk, and a proposal

London is now a “high risk” area.

I’m glad that the government has finally created a list of standard restrictions that will be applied in different areas depending on local risk levels derived from local infection rates. Unfortunately, in doing so they haven’t allayed any concerns about the restrictions being arbitrary. The regional hodge-podge we had before was clearly arbitrary and the new system is certainly simpler. However, the new restrictions still have the look of the arbitrary about them while at least being easier to understand.

In particular the ban on pubs staying open after 10pm appears to be a case of “something must be done; this is something; therefore it must be done” and to have no evidence behind it of any kind. The government have repeatedly said that there is an evidential base for it, but refused to share what that evidence is. Therefore we can only assume that the evidence is, at best, very fucking weak, and at worst a lie.

I think that these tiered standard restrictions came in too late, as well as being just plain wrong. Too late, in that they should have been standardised right from the start, when the first local restrictions were imposed in Leicester. Just plain wrong in that as well as the clear lack of evidence for at least some of the restrictions, there is also a clear lack of desire to target the actual causes and again, the government really just wants to be seen to be doing something.

Things were chuntering along fairly calmly from the end of June to the end of August. And then the schools went back, with minimal precautions, and in what must have come as a shock to absolutely no-one, cases started going up markedly; then at the beginning of October universities went back and lo, there was a massive bout of Freshers’ Flu.

Closing the pubs an hour early ain’t gonna do a damned thing when schools and universities are the real cause. Closing gyms and preventing people from seeing their friends will only have minimal effect when schools being vile plague-pits is the real cause. And people know this. The new restrictions on pub opening hours and other businesses will be adhered to because owners don’t want to get shut down, but people will not obey the rule about not seeing their friends. They put up with it back in April when it seemed sensible, but nowadays they know that it’s not tackling the current problem, they know it’s a stupid rule, and they won’t put up with it. I certainly don’t intend to obey it very well.

What should be done now is schools should teach in smaller groups, extending their day to do so, and also teaching on Saturdays. The teaching unions won’t like it, of course, but the government should quite clearly call them out on it, stating that they want to spread disease through the community. Yes, this will mean some extra hours in lessons for teachers. Teachers can be helped out by cutting back their hours outside of useful lessons. No extracurricular clubs, no field trips, no PE, no RE, no PSHE. Less homework for pupils and so less marking. No marking of older pupils’ homework, instead hand out answer sheets the next day so pupils can mark their own work and know what to ask questions about. Sure, some kids will just not do it, and harm their own education, if their parents allow that. I am indifferent to their plight, protecting society is more important. And if the teachers go on strike – great! The children won’t be able to go to school and spread pestilence between their families!

Universities should just close their accommodation for undergraduates if, as appears to be the case, they can’t house them safely. Teach those who want it remotely online. For courses that require lab time, only admit local students, and it may be possible for them to safely do their labs. Defer entry for the rest. In my experience a large number of students would be well served by having a year out of school before more studying anyway.