Rapid rise in Covid cases in primary school pupils

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THE number of Covid cases among primary school children has more than tripled in the past three weeks – prompting warnings of wider disruption from education unions.

By the end of last week, there were nearly 500 known active cases among this age group, up from 159 in the first week of term. And there were over twice as many cases recorded in primary school children last week than there were in secondary school students.

Adrian Moss, the joint district and branch secretary for the National Education Union Jersey, has warned that the sudden surge could cause classes to close if too many teaching staff were caught up in the outbreak.

‘We have been raising our concerns over the increasing numbers as we have noticed the cases going up rapidly,’ he said.

Mr Moss added that this could have a ‘knock-on effect’, in which it would be difficult for teachers to maintain business as usual.

‘This is where we end up with classes having to close, which has been happening – so having preventative measures in place such as bubbles and social distancing is key,’ he said.

He also stressed the importance of lateral-flow testing, and urged Islanders to help increase the take-up rate.

‘This is important as schools are no longer able to provide LFTs through collection points, which is different to where we were previously and makes it more difficult for individuals to obtain the tests – which help to give students confidence that they are not bringing Covid into schools.’

According to statistics released by the government, there were 159 positive Covid cases in primary school students in the first week of this term (4 to 9 January) with 138 in secondary school students. Last week the figures were 496 and 239 respectively.

At the time of writing the total number of active Covid cases in the Island stood at 1,982, having gone up from 1,941 on Monday, while there have been nine Covid-related deaths registered this month.

Schools faced major disruption last year when thousands of students were forced to isolate as direct contacts of the virus. However, under the current rules all students and staff can continue to attend school, college or nursery as long as their LFT is negative.

NASUWT representative Marina Mauger said this week that it would be ‘foolhardy’ for the government to lift the Island’s remaining restrictions, such as mask-wearing in indoor spaces, as it could present ‘increased risk’ for teachers and students. Ministers are expected to make an announcement this week.

Children’s commissioner Deborah McMillan has previously said she would support younger age groups being given the option to have the vaccine, provided it was clearly communicated as a choice ‘in a friendly and accessible way’.

She said: ‘Children have the right to good health but also to a good education. The more children that are vaccinated, the greater the reduction in transmission will be among schools, which will help children to stay in school.’

Asked what she thought about the possible lifting of restrictions this week, she said: ‘It is not for me to decide whether restrictions are removed or not – all I would say is that children should be able to keep going to school and continue their education.’

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