Fresh from a chat with BBC Radio York, I felt like I needed to mind dump this one straight away. The topic, school isolation and bubbles and my thoughts: time to pop the bubble.
Look, I’ve been a big advocate for lockdowns and the necessity of school closures throughout this pandemic. It’s been hard on everyone, near impossible for some people, but I always felt that keeping people safe – especially teaching staff when learning can be done remotely – was imperative. That hasn’t changed, but as I said at the end of the winter lockdown, I believe in progressing and reassessing your views continually, because life is not static. Things change. At the end of the last lockdown I said that I felt it was time to get kids back into school – I was nervous and I was hesitant, but after weighing up the negatives of lockdowns and the impact they have vs the positives of keeping everyone safe from covid, it was time to dip our toes with safety measures in place. Vaccines were rolling out, we were getting there, and now I really believe it’s time to step forward again.
School bubbles have always been a bit of a frustrating topic, and I’ve found myself utterly baffled a few times, turning to Adam with a frown and saying “make it make sense?!” We have been exceptionally lucky. Our three children go to one primary school which is tiny, and so far, no bubbles have popped. There have been a few people who have had to go into isolation because they or someone in their household has had the dreaded text, but so far there have been no cases in our school. Yet if there were… I have three children in three bubbles. Should one of their bubbles pop, the other kids would be going into school the next day, after eating breakfast at the same table, watching TV on the same sofa and no doubt wrestling on the floor in some sibling battle with the child who has to isolate. Again, make it make sense. We are incredibly fortunate in our household that this would impact us in terms of inconvenience but very little more. I would find it harder to film content, struggle to sit and work on projects or record podcasts, but I’m unlikely to be too impacted beyond being stressed out to the max. By contrast we have friends who would be unable to go to work, have to take unpaid leave, eat into their (much needed) holiday pay or sick pay, potentially losing them a significant part of their wage. It comes down to balance – this might still have been the case for those who worked for businesses that didn’t work remotely during the winter lockdown when we had ridiculously high cases AND hospitalisation numbers, but it could be justified as a necessary evil pre the vaccine program being so well rolled out. It feels like slowly the understanding from employers, the aid from the government (which was already dire, let’s be blunt) has been withdrawn, and yet, bubbles and enforced isolations still stand. Even with negative tests.
How can we enforce bubble systems and self isolations within schools but then pack out Wembley or Wimbledon? How can we be looking to open up more and more, putting our faith in the vaccine program, basing our decisions on the death and hospitalisation statistics, not the cases, for so many things… and then telling parents that they will need to hit the pause button on life for 10 days due to a positive test within a bubble? With vaccines rolling out so well, I feel that now is the time to step forward again and let go of the forced isolations and bubble systems that don’t seem to be doing much. Yes, cases are rising, but deaths and hospitalisations aren’t, we have a vaccine program that is doing well – in fact most teachers and staff within school (who are able) should have had at least one vaccine – and proving to be effective in protecting against the worst that covid has to offer us.
We can’t maintain COVID regulations forever, we have to take the step to the next phase at some point. If not now, when? I wouldn’t be opposed to lifting bubbles in September fresh for the new school year, there are 4 weeks left of school for most kids. Will waiting be the end of the world? Probably not… but come September, if the vaccine program is still showing promise and we have a low death/hospitalisation rate, based on that evidence, I think we really need to pop that bubble and accept this next phase.