As England starts to lift lockdown restrictions and takes a few tentative steps back to normality, we must consider the nature of “risk”. Until we develop a vaccine which - as the experts state - may never happen, there is only one way we can be certain of eliminating the risk of catching Covid-19. That would be for everyone in the country, including key workers, to barricade ourselves inside our homes and stay there for weeks. No NHS, no shopping, no food being delivered, no rubbish collections, nothing. After several months, we would emerge into a changed world and would then have to permanently seal off the UK’s borders as just one individual arriving with coronavirus from abroad would start the whole process again. There would be food shortages, labour shortages, and every job that depended on imports or exports would be lost. No doubt many more would die.
Assuming nobody wants this, we have no choice but to accept we face some level of risk of contracting Covid-19 in years to come. We can take action to minimise the risk and ensure the numbers needing medical treatment are low enough for the NHS to deal with. But we cannot eliminate the risk of falling ill. I therefore fully support UK Government steps to ease lockdown restrictions and get people back to work and children back to school when safe to do so. The new message in England is to “stay alert”; a message that reminds us we must take personal responsibility for minimising risk by washing our hands and socially distancing. It is a far clearer message than telling people to “stay at home”, unless they want to go out to exercise, work, or visit a garden centre or golf club.
I have nothing against golf and wish players all the best. But the older age group who play golf are far more at risk from Covid-19 than the under 16s who are still not being educated. Online teaching provision for those in the state sector, like my own children, has been patchy to non-existent. I believe it is time for the Welsh Government to follow the UK Government and other governments around the world in slowly reopening schools across Wales. We must do it cautiously and sensibly, with small classes and phased arrivals. This is such an important step and isn’t taken lightheartedly, but we need to recognise the right and needs for our children to be educated.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 20 May 2020 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 21 May 2020*