More than 1,800 young people test positive as Suffolk schools return
Matthew Earth and Jason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: PA
Health leaders have revealed there were 1,842 cases of coronavirus among Suffolk students as schools returned from the Christmas break.
Suffolk County Council bosses said the cases were reported among pupils for the week up to Wednesday, January 5, the day most students started the spring term.
The number does not include staff and the amount of schools affected has not yet been revealed by the county council.
Public Health Suffolk says it expects Covid-19 case numbers among youngsters to increase again with the new term.
Advice has also been issued asking pupils to test twice a week – even if they have had a positive Covid test in the 90 days prior.
Stuart Keeble, director of public health in Suffolk, told Thursday’s meeting of the Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting of police, council and health chiefs that with the five-19 year-olds “the rates haven’t increased as fast or gone up the same as the adult age group”.
“That is partly because children have been off school and before breaking up they would have been doing regular testing, so I expect those rates to increase again,” he said.
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“That won’t necessarily be just children going back to school but more testing will take place.”
The positive tests in schools come after more than 10,000 Covid cases were reported in Suffolk in the last week of 2021.
Education leaders had previously expressed fears that case numbers could see teachers forced into isolation and miss the start of term.
Orwell Multi Academy Trust, which manages schools across Suffolk, said it was planning for one in four of its staff not being at work for the start of 2022.
Mr Keeble said: “Another important change is previously national policy said that if you have had Covid in the last 90 days you don’t regularly need to have an LFD [lateral flow device] test.
“The recommendation I think is sensible because of the change from Delta to Omicron is that actually children are encouraged even if they have had a positive test in the last 90 days to have a lateral flow test twice a week.
“With the change of the protection that might not be provided by Delta means you could still go on to develop Omicron, so I think the encouragement is that children should continue to lateral flow test.”
Covid rules in schools were changed again for the new term, with secondary students asked to wear masks in classrooms.
In addition, health bosses have confirmed that schools and parents this week are receiving information on the school vaccine programme, which commences again from next week that will allow youngsters to get their jabs in school.
However, for those pupils who are not able to be jabbed when the service is in their school, bookings can be made online for slots at community vaccination sites such as the large centres or pharmacies as normal.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has said the government's priority is to keep schools open despite the high case numbers, with the Department for Education providing air purifiers to reduce the spread of Covid.