From the outset of the Covid-19 crisis, the government was determined that scientists would play a central and highly visible role. The Prime Minister set the tone in his first daily press briefing, when he addressed the nation flanked by the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser. The message was clear: this was a government that cherished, not rejected, experts. They were not going to be kept in a back room, but would be there to explain the reasoning behind all policy-making.
The United Kingdom seemed reluctant to come out of its lockdown. ‘We are likely to face a severe recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen,’ said Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Unemployment rose by 856,500 in April to 2.1 million. More than two million claims had been made for the grant scheme for self-employed people. The government was estimated to be paying ten million of the UK’s 27.5 million private-sector workers.
The choir of Notre Dame made a recording of Howard Goodall’s beautiful version of Psalm 23. Unlike cathedral choirs here they are wholly adult. It is so well done. The hands of the pianist in the middle of the screen are surrounded by the faces of the performers singing the incomparable King James text in impeccable English. The four-minute piece is intercut with shots of Notre Dame before the great fire. I found it tremendously moving — tears to the eyes.
Education is cumulative. The idea that it will be lost on a generation because, for one out of 42 terms of schooling, pupils will have to take more responsibility for their own learning, is obvious tosh. Indeed that term may yield considerable benefits for all, especially older, pupils, whatever their future plans. Let Plato explain.
Plato’s Seventh Letter (its authenticity has been doubted) deals with his failed efforts to turn Sicily into a Platonic state.
FC Seoul apologised after using sex dolls to try to create some atmosphere as games went ahead behind closed doors because of coronavirus. It is not the first time a football club has got into trouble over a fake crowd. In 1992 Arsenal covered up works at the north end of its Highbury stadium with a large mural of spectators — but was forced to repaint it after complaints that it did not contain enough women or ethnic minorities.
Save the children
Sir: Your leading article is correct that the government should have evaluated the detriment caused by shutting schools, against the risk posed by Covid-19 (‘Class divide’, 16 May). This is not a glib trade-off between protecting lives and allowing children to go to school: the predicament foisted on young people will affect their future for decades.
Exams were abruptly cancelled in March. This has left many schools dealing with apathetic individuals.