Dan Wootton: Britain’s children have suffered far too much already for school restrictions to go on any longer

Dan Wootton's take on the day's news.


God bless you, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. Against our archrival Germany at Wembley – the scene of that famous 1996 semi-final – England overcame their demons tonight. 2 nil. Better than most of us believed were possible?

Gareth Southgate kept the faith with his much-maligned team – and he was right to do so. Now a battered and bruised country can embrace the Euros like the party for which we have been waiting for what seems like an eternity. Certainly for 15 months. Congratulations to England.

Save children's mental health

It’s time to save our children’s education and their mental health. The Children’s Commissioner is right to call for an urgent end to bubbles and self-isolation from school because it is inflicting “trauma” on our most important generation.

I’ve seen what’s happened to the young people in my life. Kids who have become germophobic and borderline OCD; who have started wetting the bed again; whose development has been stunted due to a complete lack of interaction with other children. Kids are self-isolating at home for ten days because a child in their so-called bubble has tested positive.

That’s seen 375,000 kids, over five per cent of English school children, out of school, despite the fact only 9,000 actually have Covid. That figure has quadrupled in just a week. Also on the rise are the number of young people with mental health issues and being prescribed antidepressants.

The newly appointed Dame Rachel de Souza is right to call out the madness in The Daily Telegraph today. As she said: "They have done a huge amount for us, I mean they really were the least at risk of this and they've given up 19 weeks of their education, they've had all this anxiety and concern and exams cancelled; they’ve taken a big burden for us."

Surely the whole point of rapid testing was to stop this sort of over cautious insanity? The Department for Education must insist on daily testing rather than self-isolation as a hard and fast rule by the time the school year begins in September. Britain’s children have suffered far too much already for it to go on any longer.

Freedom Day

As the delayed Freedom Day approaches, it’s critical our leaders begin a new conversation about how we talk about Covid data in the future. We don’t announce the daily case numbers of season flu – and I don’t think we should with coronavirus either.

The numbers that matter on our path to normality are the hospitalisations and deaths. Cases – which will hopefully be largely in younger age groups with very few symptoms or seriously illness – are largely irrelevant. So I’m heartened by a report in today’s Politico Playbook that Tory MPs want to start a debate about when to stop publishing the daily case numbers. Alex Wickham reported: “One minister expressed their view that the daily drip of data on cases and deaths encouraged ultra-caution, arguing that if the government published the same figures for flu every winter, there would be a clamour among some for annual restrictions. Another MP said the daily figures leave a ‘mental weight’ on the population, and that things would never return to normal if there was constant speculation on Twitter and in the media about every small spike across the country.”

That’s particularly going to be important with case numbers possibly as high as 250,000 per week when Freedom Day is scheduled. Sajid Javid said yesterday that “living with coronavirus” is a priority. That’s why the daily numbers are no longer helpful.

Chris Whitty thugs

The thugs harassing Chris Whitty are a disgrace. I don't agree with every move the Chief Medical Officer has made over the past 15 months and my criticisms have been based on his professional decisions. But he seems to be a normal and caring bloke who deserves to be left alone in public.

Unlike Cabinet ministers, Whitty is provided with no formal protection. Unlike celebrities, he doesn't have the money for private cars. Through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, he has become one of the most famous men in the country in the most unlikely way.

The public must show him respect. And to the anti-lockdown protestors thinking these sorts of incidents do the cause any good, let me stress: You are wrong. The harassment of Whitty and the BBC Newsnight reporter Nick Watt is thuggery, pure and simple.