Day: 26 December 2021

Schools Plan to Send Home Whole Year Groups in January

Schools are drawing up plans to send whole year groups home amid concern that the Omicron variant will lead to staff shortages in January. The Telegraph has more.

Headteachers have warned the Prime Minister that they may be forced to prioritise key age groups for time in the classroom, while others are told to learn remotely.

The biggest threat to keeping children in face-to-face education will be high numbers of teachers forced into self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.

Primary schools in villages and small towns are understood to be considered by Whitehall officials as especially at risk of teacher shortages, given they have small numbers of staff.

The Government has already admitted that schools are likely to face disruption until Easter and is urging retired teachers to return to the classroom to fill gaps in timetables.

Sources at the Department for Education (DfE) said that their dedicated website aimed at encouraging former school staff to sign up as supply teachers had been visited around 25,000 times since it was launched a week ago. They were unable to confirm how many people had actually signed up to the scheme, estimating that it was “at least hundreds”.

But headteachers and parents fear that the scheme will not be enough to stem the tide of teacher absences and keep schools fully open next term.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said headteachers were “hoping for the best but planning for the worst”.

He told the Telegraph: “If you have a fixed pool available of those who can teach young people, then the only final resort schools and colleges have is to start thinking about the certain year groups that should be prioritised in the short term.”

Worth reading in full.

D-Day

The Prime Minister is due to meet with Sir Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty on Monday to decide whether to impose any more restrictions. If the Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Medical Officer manage to persuade Boris that that’s necessary, he will need to convene a Cabinet meeting and get the decision approved. No small task since, according to the Guardian, the main leadership contenders will oppose any tighter measures. The Sun says Boris’s decision will hinge on whether Covid hospital admissions are increasing.

If the numbers have continued to rise it will mean increased pressure on the NHS, with experts urging the Government to take action.

His meeting comes as a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron is milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70% lower than with Delta.

Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said. …

Questions continue to swirl over possible restrictions in England as the Prime Minister is set to evaluate the rules tomorrow.

Among the proposals being considered is a two-week circuit-breaker, which would include a ban on meeting friends and family indoors.

If the data continues to worsen then he could plunge the UK into further restrictions – with pubs and non-essential shops fearing they could be forced to close.

This could include plans that will prevent Brits meeting others indoors except for work purposes.

Any new restrictions will need to be passed by parliament, meaning that the Prime Minister will have to hold a cabinet meeting to approve his plans.

He would then need to recall parliament and get the support of MP’s to legalise the new restrictions.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Guardian reckons Boris is “leaning away from stricter curbs“. Let’s hope that’s right, but MailOnline has the same story, which suggests it’s a line being briefed out by Downing Street. That, in turn, makes me suspicious. Is Boris hoping to get away with trying to impose new restrictions by claiming he was planning not to but had no choice, given the hospitalisation data?

Stop Press 2: MPs and hospitality bosses have told Boris Johnson that if he brings in new restrictions before New Year’s Eve he will risk “devastating” businesses. MailOnline has more.

Hardware Problem Fixed – Happy Boxing Day

As you can see, the site is now back up. We’re almost certain it didn’t go down as the result of a malicious attack. Rather, it was an unforeseeable hardware fault. Not a conspiracy, in other words, but an unfortunate accident. Then again, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Thanks to Ian Rons, our IT Director, for working flat out for the last 24 hours to fix the problem, and to Nic Elliott, who lets us use his server for free and also helped fix the problem. (Check out Sounding Board, Nic’s excellent podcast.) Everything on the Daily Sceptic is backed up regularly so we didn’t lose anything apart from a few below-the-line comments.

I’ll be doing the News Round-Up tonight and will aim to include the most interesting stuff that’s appeared over the last two days. Luckily, there’s usually very little news over the festive period so that shouldn’t be too arduous.

Happy Boxing Day and a special thank you to all those people who’ve donated to our Donorbox account while the site has been down. We are hugely grateful for your continuing support.

Vaccine Escape Mutations “Will Become a Major Mechanism of Transmission”, Say Researchers

When the vaccine rollout got underway, some scientists argued that mass vaccination would set up an evolutionary selection pressure in favour of vaccine-resistant strains, potentially prolonging the pandemic.

For example, Robert Malone and Peter Navarro wrote the following in the Washington Times:

The more people you vaccinate, the greater the number of vaccine-resistant mutations you are likely to get, the less durable the vaccines will become, ever more powerful vaccines will have to be developed, and individuals will be exposed to more and more risk … If the entire population has been trained via a universal vaccination strategy to have the same basic immune response, then once a viral escape mutant is selected, it will rapidly spread through the entire population

To avoid being locked into an arms race with the virus, they argued that only the most vulnerable should be vaccinated. They were calling, in other words, for focused protection.

However, many scientists were sceptical that this constituted a good enough reason to hold off on mass vaccination. After all, people were dying of Covid now, and the ‘arms race argument’ was in any case speculative.

It’s important to note: the premise of Malone and Navarro’s argument – that vaccination can drive viral evolution – is accepted by many of those who support the mass rollout of Covid vaccines. At a press conference in January, the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the following:

The more you vaccinate, the more you put evolutionary pressure on the virus. So it’s true that, as you get up to very high levels of vaccination, the virus is then struggling to find out what to do, and that eventually will become an issue.

The part of Malone and Navarro’s argument that is in dispute, it seems, is that the ensuing arms race will prove unmanageable. For example, Vallance followed his comments above by saying, “the virus probably will mutate at that point, and that means that different vaccines will be needed in due course.”