Lib Dems call for half term jab blitz due to 8000 classrooms sitting empty

The Liberal Democrats have called for the Government to speed up the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines over half term after new Department for Education figures reveal over 216,000 pupils are absent from school for Covid-related reasons.

The figures, released today (12:00pm), show infection rates in schools are rising at a concerning rate and this is having a huge impact on young people’s education – with 2.6% of pupils absent for covid-related reasons over the last two weeks.

Across the UK schools are grappling with soaring case numbers, which has seen institutions like Eton bring in a wave of new strict measures, including social distancing and cancelling events, to prevent an outbreak of cases.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for greater steps to be taken to protect our children’s education, including a £5bn Catch Up Voucher plan to directly support their learning.

Responding to these figures, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

“We cannot allow our children’s futures to continue to suffer because of Conservative neglect. The Government must urgently ramp up vaccinations for 12 to 16 year olds over the half term holidays, to curb the spread within schools and prevent further disruption in the classroom.

“With teachers across the country facing rising absences from the classroom, it’s clear that the Conservatives have failed to get to grips with the difficult situation facing our schools and our children are being left to pay the price for it.

“Schools have been given the impossible task of keeping children in the classroom whilst also dealing with rising Covid rates. As a result, thousands of children are now missing out on vital learning yet again due to infections and parents will rightly feel abandoned by the Government.

“For too long the Conservatives have buried their heads in the sand and seemingly given up trying whilst our children’s education has suffered. They now need to show some real leadership to address this chaos and help our children catch up on lost learning before it’s too late.”

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  • Brad Barrows 19th Oct '21 - 3:12pm

    “Across the UK schools are grappling with soaring case numbers…”
    Not true – cases are falling in Scotland. It is also noteworthy that Scotland has been significantly more successful at rolling out the vaccine to pupils with 74.1% of 16/17 year olds and 48.2% of 12-15 year olds vaccinated with one dose.

  • Not strictly true, Brad. Scotland seems to be a few weeks ahead when it comes to school transmission, due to them returning sooner, and many schools on the October break last week (some this week too). We have to be careful not to read too much into comparisons without context.

    That said, recent figures seem to be bumping along after recovering a bit from the back to school surge. Some days up a bit and some days down a bit. Today’s figures are up 25% on last week, though of course care must be taken not to read too much into short-term changes as these are often artefacts of how data is collected rather than down to actual infection rates, never mind the consequence of specific policies.

    IMO there are a number of things all happening at the same time. The after Summer back to school surge may have died down, but the back to uni surge could be building up steam.

    But none of this is relevant to the article. It does make sense to take advantage of empty schools for this phase of the vaccine roll-out. It would have been better to have this organised at least a couple of weeks before the break, but the big advantage of using schools is that they are near to where people live, most people know how to access them, and there’s usually decent parking and/or public transport.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Oct '21 - 4:47pm

    The party must call for more, the virus is out of control here!

    This is a good announcement but not in any way enough.

    The govt has given up. It is a disgrace!

  • Brad Barrows 19th Oct '21 - 5:52pm

    Looking at the 7 day average, Scotland reached a peak of just over 6k cases per day about 6 weeks ago. Since then the rate has fallen for 5 weeks to an average of about 2.5k per day and has then been flat for about a week. If, as you say, ‘Scotland seems to be a few weeks ahead’, we would have see the figures in the rest of the UK start to decline by now. Instead, the UK 7 day average was 29k on 18th September and has risen ever since.

  • Meanwhile, did wee Alex C.-H. and the Scottish Lib Dem hierarchy notice what happened at Celtic Park in Glasgow today ?

    Full house watching Celtic beat Hungarian champions Ferencvaros 2-0 in the Europa League, and …… BBC reporting vaccine certificate admission system working smoothly with positive comments from spectators. No complaints about an infringement of anybody’s civil liberties. All very sensible and satisfactory.

  • The JCVI recommended against this, they shouldn’t be vaccinating that age group and we shouldn’t be calling for more of it. What happened to following the science?

  • >The figures, released today (12:00pm), show infection rates in schools are rising at a concerning rate

    It was entirely predictable and obvious to anyone who cared to analyse the data back in April… But then there were those who thought because children didn’t typically get CoViD as badly as adults they didn’t need vaccinating.

    Surprise! surprise! today’s figures for the general population show an upward trend in CoViD cases and hospital admissions; I’m sure there are some who will, from a pseudo-science basis, argue that the two aren’t related.

  • Have to agree with Lorenzo. The government has given up and it is a disgrace.
    Covid is getting out of control again and hospitals are a shambles, meanwhile families with sick relatives in hospital either with or without covid are unable to be with dying loved ones.

    I have always been for stronger restrictions to bring down the amount of virus spreading in the community, one reason being, for humane reasons so that loved ones can be with family members in their time of need.

    My elderly father 81 was rushed to A&E on Saturday with an infected Gallbladder, Gallstones and sepsis. I was able to spend all night with him in A&E despite NOT being tested for covid or even having my temperature taken. They have not been able to find my father a permeant ward to go on to, so he has been placed into acute medicine Ward since Sunday Morning and due to covid restrictions for this type of ward, we have all been denied visiting my father who is critical and may not make it.
    He was due to have surgery today, which got cancelled due to resources, they do not know if it is going to happen tomorrow or the next day, however, until he is on a proper ward, we are being denied visitation (including my mother)
    To make things even worse his brother is also in the same hospital and is critical with sepsis for a similar infection and is not expected to make it.

    The amount of covid in the population, is putting a huge strain on the NHS and resources, but worse still it is denying families being their with loved ones during their last days. There is nothing more cruel than this.

    The Government has not learnt the lessons and unfortunately society is becoming immune to the numbers ( as if these are acceptable) no matter the suffering this is causing to families who sick relatives regardless of whether its covid or non covid related

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Oct '21 - 10:24pm


    So very touching , your comments. What you are experiencing is the result of personal sadness with political sadness. It is very difficult to be isolated in the midst of covid, personally. It is very difficult to as a consequence of holding strong views not as widely heard, be isolated, politically. I feel your pain, my good friend and colleague.

  • @Lorenzo

    Thank you for your comment, there is much sadness, but I am also angry and trying so very hard not to get bitter as I know that is not going to help me my father or my family.

    The numbers did not need to be anything like they are, we only have to look to Europe to see how much better other countries are doing than us.

    But Boris and chums put wealth before health as usual.
    We have the worse health minister possible in the job.
    With over 5 million people and counting waiting hospital treatment and even those who are currently in hospital needing critical treatment unable to access the treatment they need due to over-stretched resources and staff shortages.

    We are not even in the mist of winter and things are already this bad. What do they think things are going to look like in January, waiting lists are going to soar to catastrophic levels which no amount of money being thrown at, is going to get through the back log and save lives which could have been saved had Boris and his goons not allowed covid to spiral out of control in the way that they have.

    During the last 2 years I have shouted from the rafters about covid ,as my primary concern has always been for public health and to allow people to have a dignified death, whether through covid or non-covid, but more importantly for family members to be with their loved ones during their final days, otherwise the trauma of being denied this is something that many will carry for the rest of their lives feeling that they abandoned their loved ones in times of need.
    I just never really prepared myself to become a part of the people on a personal level for whom I was trying to give a voice.

    Like I said, I will never accept things had to be like this and I will continue to shout and roar for Government to change tact and we have to get society to change its mindset that these numbers are acceptable (They’re not)

  • Is it not possible that the increasing numbers of children absent from school should concern us all? Surely, an infectious child is likely to infect any member of their household, family and community with whom they come into contact.

    As to the Government having given up; they just want to “Get Covid done”.

    I honestly believe that no-one in this Cabinet has any idea of what is involved in governing the country or how to govern the country. The basic premise is that Boris wants to be Prime Minister and doesn’t want the work that goes with that appointment.

  • David Garlick 20th Oct '21 - 1:42pm

    This crazy government seem hell bent on waiting until it is too late to be at the most effective every time there is a need to act.
    It does not seem too much to ask everyone to wear a mask inside shops etec and to wash/jell hands aas often as we can whilst keeping our distance at the best we can to reduce the number of people going to hospital etc. Small steps that I would expect to work if only they were requested early.

  • >This crazy government seem hell bent on waiting until it is too late to be at the most effective every time there is a need to act.

    Many others have expressed similar sentiments, concern has to be that the government has, by its dithering and thus not being seen to take CoViD sufficiently seriously, encouraged the belief that CoViD isn’t any worse than the flu etc. and that lockdown, mask wearing, vaccination etc. are unnecessary burdens and intrusions into peoples lives.
    If there is another lockdown, I suspect the government will find it hard to get people to take it seriously…

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Oct '21 - 2:23pm

    Yes to every word, Matt.

    And David, one and two and Roland!

    This is really worrying, the level of infection and no action!

  • Jayne mansfield 20th Oct '21 - 3:28pm

    @ Roland,

    It is important to understand that action must be taken to prevent a surge in cases, not to belatedly react to one. By this time it is too late to stop an exponential rise in cases.

    We have a new variant, and with the government that we have, and a history of each variant becoming more transmissible a Prime Minister and his cabinet answering questions with bluster, ‘crossing fingers’ or prayer seems the only hope we have that this next variant is less so.

    I think we should remind ourselves how responsible the majority of people in the UK were when the pandemic first spread to these shores, and what has led to the current situation where responsibility is a ‘personal choice’.

  • Nonconformistradical 20th Oct '21 - 3:29pm

    @David Goble
    “Surely, an infectious child is likely to infect any member of their household, family and community with whom they come into contact.”
    And while many of the people with whom the child comes into contact may have been vaccinated, as the immunity from vaccination wears off the risk of catching the bug is likely to increase…?

  • David Goble 20th Oct '21 - 3:47pm

    @ Nonconformistradical. Totally agree with your comment. And so we head into the fourth wave!

  • @David – I’m not sure why you think it’s relevant to bring up the implementation of vaccine passports in Scotland, but if you ask a bunch of people who self-selected to use the scheme if they had any issues with it – then you won’t hear from the people who stayed at home because they didn’t want to or couldn’t use the app. The people who cheated the system using the work-arounds that have been well publicised on social media won’t admit to it. And those people can’t tell you whether or not their attendance at the football was any safer because of it.

    There may be benefits from a properly implemented vaccine passport system, but mis-using data isn’t the way to argue the case.

    It’s far more important that we encourage full vaccine uptake and the authorities make it as easy as possible. Externalising the costs of this by hoping that an ill thought out vaccine passport scheme will force higher vaccine uptake isn’t just lazy, it’s unfair.

    We also need to encourage people to continue to behave responsibly. Over-reliance on a vaccine passport could make that harder.

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