Posted: Fri 3rd Sep 2021

Calls for Welsh Government to ‘step up’ Covid measures in schools amidst soaring cases amongst pupils in other parts of UK

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Sep 3rd, 2021

A teachers union is calling for the Welsh Government to step up Covid control measures in schools amidst a backdrop of soaring cases in Scotland and Northern Ireland only a few weeks after pupils returned.

The NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union is calling for “proactive measures to deliver on promises to improve ventilation” and an extension to the programme of onsite testing to break the chain of virus transmission within schools.

If there is a sharp rise in cases in Schools across Wales, measures the union would like to see include the need for pupils to self-isolate when they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

A measure that was scrapped for the start of the school year.

The union also wants a timetable from the Welsh government as to when 30,000 CO2 monitors, announced last week, will be deployed into schools.

NASUWT also wants ministers to reconsider the removal of the requirement to wear face coverings in classrooms.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary said: “Ministers must not risk complacency or follow a strategy of crossing their fingers and hoping for the best if the number of Covid cases rise following school reopening.

“We only need to look to Scotland to see that there has been a steep increase in Covid cases among school-age pupils within just a couple of weeks.

“In the event of rising case numbers, Ministers will need to consider the reintroduction of the requirement for pupils to self-isolate when they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

“This should be supported by an extended programme of onsite testing in schools, rather than relying on a less effective system of home testing.

“Schools will also want confirmation of the timetable for the rollout of already promised Co2 monitors into schools to assist them in ensuring good ventilation.

“There is no reason for further disruption to pupils’ education, where sensible and proportionate measures are taken to support the already tremendous efforts being taken by schools and staff.”

Neil Butler, NASUWT National Official Wales, said: “If action is not taken to address safety controls, the spread of Covid once again risks further disruption to pupils’ education and the safety and health of students and staff.”

“Allowing the spread of Covid in schools also risks driving a further wave of infections in the wider community.”

“The Welsh Government needs to reconsider the removal of the requirement to wear face coverings in classrooms.”

“There is a double standard here where the Welsh Government asks employers to require the use of face coverings in enclosed places, but does not require this in classrooms.”

“Ministers cannot simply put the responsibility for safety onto individuals and schools. ”

“We need to learn from the situation in Scotland and keep hold of the national Operational Guidance until we have a clearer idea of the impact of returning to school settings. ”

Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth MS has raised the issue as learners are set to return to classrooms and lecture theatres across Wales.

The latest data from Public Health Wales has shown that positive test results are at their second highest since the pandemic started.

A corresponding rise in hospital admissions from Covid can also now be seen across all health boards in Wales.

Mr ap Iorwerth will be writing to the Welsh health minister to ask how the government is planning to respond to this pattern.

The Welsh Government previously confirmed that vaccination significantly weakened the link between infection and hospitalisation, but Mr ap Iorwerth said rising cases would always lead to rising hospitalisations.

Mr ap Iorwerth said of additional concern is the fact that a recent study shows that one in seven children who catch coronavirus still show symptoms months after the original infection.

He said: “Our learners are returning to schools, colleges and universities at a time when community transmission and hospital admissions are rising, and far higher than at the same point in 2020.

“In 2020, the return to school was a factor in community cases rising even higher, and we cannot ignore that this might happen again.

“Children and young people remain largely unvaccinated, so have little protection against catching the virus, and nothing to stop them passing it on to family and the wider community.

“Of additional concern is the harm that can be caused by long-COVID, and a recent study shows 1 in 7 children with COVID will still show symptoms after 15 weeks.

“Schools are crying out for clearer guidance on how to keep children and staff safe from harm: Some of whom are clinically vulnerable, and will be anxious to find out about government plans for a third vaccine dose.

“Welsh Government must always show how it’s responding to the ever-changing situation in order to try to allay fears, and this is why I’ll be writing to the Health Minister to express the concerns and to seek clarity on the approach she will adopt.”

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