TONY JOHNSON: Kissing Grandma goodbye

Picture: PIRO4D via Pixabay

IF EVER there were a time for common sense, the start of the year would be it.

And while central government seems bereft of anything as common as sense, our Borough isn’t.

Never mind the Brexit

It won’t have escaped your attention that the country finally left the EU after a deal was agreed, with less than a week until trade relations would have descended into complete chaos.

Rumours that aerial photographs of Manston Airfield are now illegal need to be shut down fast, otherwise Johnny Foreigner’s going to find out where all his HGV lorries have been hidden.

The Brexit deal is so good that some would have us believe that “no Tories voted against it”. Which is rather different from “all Tories voted for it” especially as at least one veteran Eurosceptic abstained.

Whatever your views about his vote, you’d be hard pressed to deny that Sir John Redwood’s opposition to the European project is deep rooted and founded on experience. So for him to abstain on “taking back control” (something he’s strongly advocated) is a real facer.

This is the pandemic

In the push-you pull-them of politics, Boris’ undoubtedly very fine and wide ranging talents are being stretched.

In a Sunday interview we learned that ‘Following the science’ had been replaced by ‘being guided by the public health advice’. If you were expecting well thought out policies and crisp communications you’d have been disappointed.

With the NHS on the brink of being overwhelmed, the PM’s answers had all the hallmarks of ‘pretty poor preparation’.

After saying seven times that schools were safe, it was clear they weren’t, but finding the reason was going to take some digging.

Meanwhile, the smirk-athon continued – vintage gattox from a PM who delivers complete bollow. Interview over, confusion reigned.

Leadership is as Leadership does

On Sunday afternoon, WBC got its act together despite the miasma of misimpression from Downing Street.

John Halsall (WBC’s Leader) and the executive member for Children’s Services, together with two of the most senior staff, published a statement saying that the Council would support local Primary Schools if they decided to stay closed for the first two days of the new term.

This gave headteachers some wiggle room and was published mid-afternoon on social media, then around an hour later on Wokingham.Today’s website. It went up on WBC’s own social media feed before 8am on Monday morning in time for everyone’s return to work in the new year.

The statement made it clear that WBC would continue to ‘seek clarification’ from the Department for Education in London.

Make no mistake – this is a national problem – not a local one. But on Sunday our council provided clarity and flexibility for schools to use the following day.

And the real issue?

On Christmas Eve, the average rate of infection the previous week had been 320 per 100,000 of population. Among the young the figures were:

University age ~7x average, bumpy but even

Secondary School age ~10x average and rising

Primary School age ~6x average and rising

This shows why secondary school dates have been put back, while the trends from July to December show that primary school infection rates are only a few weeks behind their elder brothers’ and sisters’ rates.

Vaccinations give choices

While the current vaccination priorities are laudable, they don’t make sense. Mortality statistics from 2020 show that NHS staff are saving even more lives than they did in the first wave. Hard though each death is, the NHS isn’t being overwhelmed by the dead, it’s being overwhelmed by the living: lots of patients who need lots of care.

So instead of using vaccines for retired older folk like me, they should be for people who have to come into close proximity by keeping key workers healthy and cutting the disease vectors, where the virus spreads rapidly:

  • Healthcare and food sales
  • Education and nursery schools
  • Secondary and Primary school students
  • Expand to other essentials
  • Lastly – General population

‘Key workers’ are those in direct contact with patients, foodstuffs, customers and students. Not the back-office, or those working from home.

Cutting the disease vectors will reduce the NHS’ overload and get the UK economy back to working far more quickly than today’s approach.

Much like you fix a flooded bathroom more quickly by shutting the taps off than you do by mopping up or taking the plug out.

The last word

Anyone who’s ever had a senior role can tell you that wanting the job and doing it are two different things. It’s easier to observe than to do.

Which is why it’s a pleasure to see Cllr John Halsall, Cllr UllaKarin Clark, Susan Parsonage and Carol Cammiss providing clarity and guidance, so that grandmas and grandpas will one day be able to kiss their offspring goodbye again, rather than the other way round just the once.


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