Posted: Fri 24th Sep 2021

Around 570 Flintshire school children test positive for Covid in first three weeks of September – but rise in cases expected

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Sep 24th, 2021

Flintshire’s education chief has said there is “no cause for alarm” as Covid cases rise in schools across the county.

There has been around 570 positive cases reported across schools in Flintshire between 1 and 19 September, but the rise was expected.

Neighbouring Denbighshire – which has similar rates of Covid circulating in the community as Flintshire – has implemented extra precautions in its schools to reduce the spread of the virus.

On Thursday, Denbighshire council said that: “Due to an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases associated with schools, learners and staff will be undertaking further measures to help control the spread of the virus.”

“This includes continuing to encourage pupils and staff to take twice-weekly LFD tests to help identify and isolate asymptomatic cases and the wearing of face coverings by secondary school pupils, staff and visitors in indoor communal areas outside of the classroom.”

“Other arrangements include reducing close interactions between staff and learners such as physical distancing and seating plans in place in classrooms.”

Flintshire council has said current Covid rates in schools are mirroring those withing community.

Latest data from Public Health Wales shows that in Flintshire, between 13 to 17 September, 853 people tested positive for Covid.

The 7 day incidence rate per 100,000 population is 546, in Denbighshire it is slightly lower at 530, the Wales wide figure for the same period stands at 559.

Flintshire’s Chief Officer for Education and Youth, Claire Homard, said:

“As in other parts of Wales, Flintshire schools have seen a significant number of Covid cases since the start of the new school year.”

“This was to be expected with the relaxation of restrictions under National Alert Level 0 and the programme of testing of secondary pupils and the education workforce before returning to school.”

“There have been approximately 570 cases across Flintshire’s 77 schools between 1 and 19 September.”

“The rates in schools mirror the rates in the community.”

“Schools continue to work closely with the Test, Trace and Protect Team and take appropriate action, when necessary, within the national guidance.”

“There is no cause for alarm, all measures are precautionary to prevent and limit the spread and, thankfully, there are no serious medical cases.”

The latest data on school absence published by the Welsh Government shows that 1.7% of pupils (around 7900) were absent due to a known COVID-19 related reason over the week of 13 to 17 September 2021.

According to comments published by Wales Online, Education Minister Jeremy Miles said the Welsh government has “watched Scotland very closely” and believes Wales is following a similar pattern.

“We thought we might see an increase in numbers, It is important to look at Scotland, where school term started about three weeks before Wales and at the equivalent point to where we are now positive cases were going up [in Scotland], and then they started to come down.”

“It’s very important that we keep the situation under review. The framework in place allows headteachers to know how to deal with any event.”

The Welsh Government published ‘The Local Covid-19 Infection Control Decision Framework’ at the start of the autumn term.

The framework enables schools and colleges to tailor some of the interventions to reflect the level of risk identified locally.

They will be supported by public health officials and local authorities to ensure measures are appropriate to their circumstances.

Commenting on the rising number of positive coronavirus cases across Wales and its effect on schools, Eithne Hughes, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru (ASCL), said: “Much of Wales is currently seeing very high rates of Covid-19 infection. Many are reporting higher levels of student absence than they suffered at any point in the pandemic and this is being exacerbated by staff absences and a resulting chronic shortage of supply staff to provide cover.”

“Many heads are reporting they have had to return to frontline teaching to ensure lessons take place and are having to work long into the night to carry out their leadership duties. This is exhausting and unsustainable for them.”

“We warned before students returned for the autumn term that the Welsh government’s contingency guidance was inadequate, vague and open to interpretation and the situation has unravelled spectacularly in a matter of a few weeks as a result.”

“The promised vaccinations programme for 12 to 15-year-olds is potentially the way that we can stem the inexorable rise in cases in our schools but the government has not given a timescale for when this might start or details of how it will work in practice.”

“With every passing day, confidence among leaders and teachers that it will be achieved by the October half-term is nosediving.”

“Schools need decisive and strong leadership from the government to calm very real fears that the situation in Wales is getting out of hand.” “They need firm guidance on when the vaccination programme will start and how and where students will get their jabs and we would also like to see other measures such as a public information campaign to encourage students to take home tests and government funding for high-quality ventilation systems in schools.”

The Welsh Government published ‘The Local Covid-19 Infection Control Decision Framework’ at the start of the autumn term. The framework enables schools and colleges to tailor some of the interventions to reflect the level of risk identified locally. They will be supported by public health officials and local authorities to ensure measures are appropriate to their circumstances.

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