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Monday 18 May 2020

Telegraph Covid-19 School Story BUSTED

The message, given out loud and clear yesterday on The Andy Marr Show™ by Michael “Oiky” Gove, was unequivocal: schools should reopen at the beginning of next month, and parents should get their children back into the classroom. This, although not stated quite so strongly, would enable many of those parents to return to work, thus reducing furlough payments and getting the economy moving once more.
Part of “Oiky’s” schtick was that the risks involved were very small indeed: children might become infected with Covid-19, but it doesn’t affect the vast majority of them. That many teachers and other workers in the eduction sector have already died with Covid-19 was, for some reason, not told. Gove respected all concerned parties, but it was back to school.

In support of this push to win hearts and minds, the propaganda war has today been joined. And while the Mirror asks “ARE OUR KIDS SAFE OR NOT, MR GOVE?” the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph is in no doubt, proclaiming “Risk of virus spreading in schools is ‘extremely low’ … Major study shows negligible transmission of Covid-19 among pupils and teachers as WHO plays down threat”.
Good question ...

Moving right along from “extremely low” having to be put in quote marks, we find that the alleged “Major study” is not quite as “Major” as the headline writer had us believe. “The research looked at 18 infected students and teachers in 15 schools and found that despite them being in close contact with 863 people at the schools, only two caught the virus”.

And what happened to those who were then in contact with the two who became infected? That is not told, but the Tel wants us to know that “It is the only major study of transmission among children and teachers and shows that the virus’ spread is ‘limited’ in classrooms”. And where does this study originate? “The latest study, carried out in Australia”.
... but maybe they are ...

Whatever, it seems the Government is taking it seriously: “a senior member of the SAGE subcommittee on schools confirmed the Australian study had been looked at by Government scientific advisors. They described it as ‘a very useful and interesting piece of research’”. But the Tel is being slightly economical with the actualité here.

Richard Bartholomew, who tends to read the small print rather more keenly than many alleged journalists, has looked at the study the Tel is quoting, titled “COVID-19 in schools - the experience in NSW”, and discovered this interesting snippet: “on 23 March 2020 the NSW Premier advised that although schools remained open, parents were encouraged to keep their children at home for online learning. After this date face-to-face attendance in schools decreased significantly and this may have impacted the results”.

The report adds at that point “Furthermore, school holidays commenced in NSW on Friday 10 April for two weeks”. The report is dated 26 April 2020. Had there been no school holidays, or home schooling, the opportunity for transmission would have increased.

Bartholomew then muses “A detail from the Australian study behind the UK Daily Telelgraph's ‘Risk of Coronavirus Spreading in Schools is “Extremely Low” Study Finds’ front-page splash. For some reason it's not included in the article”.

The Tel is trying a bit too hard with that story. The Mirror’s question remains unanswered.
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