Schools across Wakefield have been asked to consider the introduction of new safety measures in a major new bid to combat soaring COVID-19 case rates.
Over recent weeks, the district has experienced a dramatic rise in COVID-19 rates which are now almost equivalent to November 2020 when Wakefield was in the highest tier of restrictions, and considerably higher than January this year when the whole nation went into lockdown.
Infections in school-age children are considered the main contributory factor in this rise – with currently more than 1 in 50 secondary school children in our district having COVID-19. Local hospitals are already seeing increased admissions, and as winter approaches everyone needs to play their part to avoid our health and social care services becoming overwhelmed.
Now, in a new bid to stem the rising case rates, schools are being asked to consider additional safety measures from 1 November.
In a joint letter to schools from Wakefield Council’s Corporate Director for Children and Young People Beate Wagner, and Director of Public Health Anna Hartley, the following new measures are advised:
- Face coverings should be worn by secondary school pupils in classrooms and communal areas and by adults in all schools in communal areas.
- Where a pupil is a household contact (i.e. someone who he/she lives with is positive), he/she should remain at home for three to five days, taking a PCR test on day five. He/she should only return to school if the test is negative. The child must stay at home and arrange another test if he/she later develops symptoms. 12 to 16-year-olds vaccinated more than 14 days ago, and children aged 5 to 16 who have tested positive for COVID-19 via a PCR test within the past 90 days are exempt from this advice.
- Year group and class mixing should be reduced and whole-school/year group events suspended wherever possible. It is recommended that school events for parents and visitors should take place online.
- Ventilation in schools should be maximised. This means having doors and windows open to promote a good flow of air.
- The risks and benefits of any planned school trips, or other out-of-school activities, should be assessed.
Cllr Denise Jeffrey, Leader of Wakefield Council, said: “COVID-19 case rates in both primary and secondary age groups are very high. It is extremely important that we take all necessary steps to minimise virus transmission this winter.
“By implementing these new measures, we can prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools while limiting disruption to our children’s education. We want to thank local schools for all their continued hard work to protect pupils, staff and the wider school community.”
In addition to the school measures outlined above, parents are advised to:
- Encourage children to undertake lateral flow testing twice a week if they attend a secondary school.
- Encourage children to wear face coverings if they attend secondary school, both in classrooms and in enclosed public indoor spaces.
- Carefully consider the benefits of the vaccination programme for children aged 12 to 15.
- If they or their children develop COVID-19 symptoms book a free NHS test as soon as possible (visit www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or call 119). Stay at home until tested.
Children aged 12 to 15 are currently being offered a vaccine to give them the best possible protection against COVID-19.
Parents can find out more about the 12 to 15 vaccination programme at www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine-for-children-aged-12-to-15/