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Shropshire Star comment: Readers not swayed by politicians

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

The results of this newspaper’s coronavirus survey paint an interesting picture of the region’s hopes and fears in this time of crisis.

Gavin Williamson puts forward a powerful argument for a return next month

And from more than 5,000 responses, a number of key messages came through loud and clear.

Firstly, it is apparent that the majority of readers have not been swayed by the growing number of politicians who have suddenly become experts in dealing with the coronavirus.

The Government’s approach has been far from perfect, but for the time being at least, large sections of the public are willing to give the PM the benefit of the doubt.

As we have said on these pages many times before, there will be a time and a place in future for a full inquiry into all aspects of the pandemic.

Having said that, the decision over when to reopen our schools is one that the Government simply cannot afford to get wrong.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson puts forward a powerful argument for a return next month.

He says that returning to school is in the best interests of our children’s welfare and education.

He maintains that the Government’s decision has been guided by the very best scientific advice, and insists the route that has been taken is a cautious one.

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The Government is fully aware that the decision to close schools in the first place – although widely supported – cut short the education of millions of youngsters.

The long term impact of prolonged closures is potentially disastrous, particularly, as MPs have pointed out, for vulnerable children and those who already suffer from inequalities in education.

However, as the results of our survey have shown, many people believe that it is too soon for pupils to be sent back to school.

Teachers and unions are struggling to see how social distancing can possibly take place with pupils. They are concerned about managing safety.

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There are understandable calls – backed by the British Medical Association – for a thorough testing regime to be in place before pupils return.

For parents, there is still too little clear evidence on the extent to which children are carriers of Covid-19, even though they usually got fewer and less serious symptoms than adults.

It now seems likely that a number of councils across the country will back headteachers who want their schools to remain closed.

Mr Williamson has pointed out the example of Denmark, the reopening of schools coincided with a steep reduction in the infection rate.

This is accurate, but it is also true to say that the Scandinavian country has had only around 10,500 cases of the virus – and a death toll that is a fraction of the UK’s.

While ministers grapple with this conundrum, there are signs that we are starting to head away from the worst ravages of the virus.

According to our survey, a large number of people have taken the time to help others during the lockdown.

There is a view that this awful period in our history has somehow brought out a kinder side of society.

At a time when so many people have lost loved ones to this deadly disease, it is difficult to comprehend that things could have been far worse.

We must be grateful for small mercies.

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