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Hundreds of schools are told to be ‘proactive’ and roll back suite of Covid curbs

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Schools have been ordered by municipalities to implement a series of tougher Covid restrictions in response to rising infections among students.

Hundreds of primary and secondary schools in Staffordshire were urged to be ‘proactive’ and not wait for official government guidance.

The county council has encouraged the return of face masks and year group bells and scrapping meetings and staff meetings. It also advised schools to stagger start and break times to limit mixing in hallways and on the playground.

The Staffordshire County Council, which includes more than 400 schools, is believed to be the first to promote the reintroduction of such a comprehensive set of measures.

Other local authorities have withdrawn minor measures such as the wearing of masks, including Cumbria and parts of Northamptonshire.

Pupils whose family member tests positive are advised to ‘stay home pending the result of the PCR test’, despite the fact that schools cannot legally isolate them.

In August, ministers scrapped the requirement that all contacts of Covid cases must self-isolate.

Schools have been ordered by municipalities to implement a series of tougher Covid restrictions in response to rising infections among students. Pictured: Schoolchildren watch a lesson at Willows High School last year

Hundreds of primary and secondary schools in Staffordshire urged to be 'proactive' and roll back Covid restrictions in schools

Hundreds of primary and secondary schools in Staffordshire urged to be ‘proactive’ and roll back Covid restrictions in schools

The latest official figures show that within 28 days of a positive test for the virus, 0.5 girls aged 10 to 14 per 100,000 die from the virus.  The figure for boys of the same age is 0.3 per 100,000

The latest official figures show that within 28 days of a positive test for the virus, 0.5 girls aged 10 to 14 per 100,000 die from the virus. The figure for boys of the same age is 0.3 per 100,000

The government, keen not to step back after the restrictions are lifted in July, says schools can only roll back curbs if contamination levels in schools get too high.

It’s unclear how many pupils or staff have tested positive in Staffordshire, but the council claims it has the support of ministers.

The Ministry of Education says schools can take action themselves if five linked pupils or staff members test positive for Covid within a 10-day period.

They have also been given the power to do it if 10 percent of students or staff in a school test positive within 10 days.

Covid is now in every classroom, numbers suggest

One in 20 children in England was infected with Covid on any given day last week, official data revealed today amid fears a fourth wave could be just around the corner.

The Office for National Statistics estimated today that 658,800 people in England had the virus as of September 25, 6.2 percent more than the previous weekly figure.

Analysis showed that the virus is most common in children aged 11 to 16, with an estimated 4.6 percent of them infected – the equivalent of about one infected student in each classroom.

As the outbreak among students has exploded since they bounced back in early September, some scientists have urged high schools to immediately reintroduce face masks to prevent infections from spreading to the rest of the population.

Meanwhile, Staffordshire County Council bosses today urged 500 schools to be “proactive” and reintroduce the infection control measures scrapped by No10 in mid-May, including calling and contact tracing.

The ONS data, closely watched by ministers, barely changed in other age groups last week, despite a range of other official statistics indicating that the outbreak has already started to spread.

A document circulated by the Staffordshire council says it has the support of the local health director and government ministers.

Infections in the Tory district rose by more than a quarter last week, but more than 30 places had higher infection rates in the UK.

Staffordshire County Council cabinet minister Jonathan Price said the cases were concentrated in secondary and university outbreaks.

He added: ‘As in other parts of the country, Staffordshire has seen a significant increase in matters related to schools. Cases of Covid-19 remain high in Staffordshire, largely due to outbreaks in schools and colleges among the 11 to 18 age group.

“To lower the number of cases, reduce risk to the wider community and minimize disruption to education, we are deploying a mobile testing unit at Staffordshire schools to provide PCR testing to students. This will help identify more students who may unknowingly have the virus and in turn help prevent the spread of the infection.

“We want to keep schools open and kids in school, so like other authorities, we’ve outlined some measures that schools may want to consider on a case-by-case basis. This could be improved cleaning or trying to keep pupils in bubbles. This would be to limit contact and not for isolation purposes.

“Our schools and children have shown tremendous resilience during the pandemic and we will continue to support them to reduce cases of Covid-19.”

It comes as official statistics showed that one in 20 children in England was infected with Covid on any given day last week.

The Office for National Statistics estimated today that 658,800 people in England had the virus as of September 25, 6.2 percent more than the previous weekly figure.

Analysis showed that the virus is most common in children aged 11 to 16, with an estimated 4.6 percent of them infected – the equivalent of about one infected student in each classroom.

As the outbreak among students has exploded since they bounced back in early September, some scientists have urged high schools to immediately reintroduce face masks to prevent infections from spreading to the rest of the population.

Meanwhile, Staffordshire County Council bosses today urged 500 schools to be “proactive” and reintroduce the infection control measures scrapped by No10 in mid-May, including calling and contact tracing.

The ONS data, closely watched by ministers, barely changed in other age groups last week, despite a range of other official statistics indicating that the outbreak has already started to spread.

A scientist behind one of the country’s largest Covid surveillance studies warned yesterday that infections are now spreading up the “generation ladder.”

The estimated infection rate among 11- to 16-year-olds in England is an increase from the 2.8 percent believed to be infected a week earlier.

Children aged two to 10 have the second highest infection rate: about one in 40 (2.6 percent) of them thought they had the virus on a particular day last week, compared to 2.3 percent a week earlier.

Cases are also rising among the over-70s, with an estimated 0.5 percent of them infected, compared to 0.4 percent last week.

But in all other age groups, cases are falling or falling.

The charts show estimates from the Office for National Statistics for the percentage of people who tested positive in England for different age groups from August 15 to September 25.  The virus was most common in children aged 11 to 16, with an estimated 4.6 percent of them having been infected - the equivalent of about one infected student in each class

The charts show estimates from the Office for National Statistics for the percentage of people who tested positive in England for different age groups from August 15 to September 25. The virus was most common in children aged 11 to 16, with an estimated 4.6 percent of them having been infected – the equivalent of about one infected student in each class

Among 17- to 24-year-olds, 1.1 percent are said to have Covid, down from 1.5 percent last week, while 0.6 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds had the virus last week, down from 0.1. 7 percent .

Meanwhile, 0.8 percent of people aged 35 to 49 had the coronavirus and 0.7 percent of 50 to 69-year-olds — the same as the previous week.

The rise of cases among younger groups led Staffordshire County Council to tell schools to take back extensive measures to curb the outbreak in the area, where the number of infections has risen by 28.8 per cent in a week.

The council said students must wear face coverings, while staff must remain 2 meters away from students. And there should be no full-staff meetings or school events, such as meetings, it advised.

It also told students living with someone who tests positive to stay at home until they get a negative PCR test, despite not being able to legally enforce this measure.

Professor Christina Pagel, a mathematician at University College London, this week called for a reduction in infection control measures at the national level.

She said: “I think we need to start taking measures in schools again, especially masks in high schools, and roll out the vaccine a little faster.”

Professor Pagel warned of rising infection rates among children, the risk of them suffering from ‘long Covid’ and a slow vaccine roll-out meant action had to be taken to limit the spread of the virus.

It’s because the ONS data shows that infections in the UK are a mixed picture. Cases are on the rise in England and Wales, where an estimated one in 85 (1.21 percent) and one in 55 (1.76 percent) people respectively had Covid last week.

Meanwhile, the number of cases in Scotland, where one in 65 people (1.85 percent) was infected last week, is falling from one in 45 (2.28 percent) in the seven days to September 18.

And one in 65 people in Northern Ireland (1.53 percent) had the virus last week, down from one in 60 a week earlier, according to official estimates.

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