Thousands of Harborough pupils urged to wear face coverings in communal areas as county Covid cases hit near-record levels

Public health and education bosses at Leicestershire County Council have now written to parents through headteachers as they step up efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic

Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 12:15 pm
Leicestershire County Council’s public health director Mike Sandys

Thousands of pupils are today being urged to wear face coverings in communal areas of schools in Harborough and across Leicestershire as local Covid cases hit near-record levels.

Public health and education bosses at Leicestershire County Council have now written to parents through headteachers as they step up efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

They are encouraging families to do all they can to help protect students and staff from the virus.

The new move comes as Covid-19 infection levels in Leicestershire “are approaching the highest levels seen during the pandemic”, said the county council.

The latest coronavirus infection rate for Harborough is 534.9 cases per 100,000 people – and it’s 566.7 cases per 100,000 people for Leicestershire.

“There is particular concern that the virus is having an impact on students’ attendance, disrupting their education and affecting the roll-out of the vaccination programme in young people,” said the council.

“Face covering in school communal areas is not currently required within the Government advice on limiting the spread of coronavirus. “However, guidance does also say that schools can introduce them as an additional measure if felt necessary.”

Today Leicestershire County Council’s public health director Mike Sandys said: “Unfortunately, we are seeing coronavirus again putting considerable pressure on schools.

“We have been supporting a number of schools in dealing with outbreaks through the autumn term.

“And now I am asking headteachers more widely to consider further measures within schools to help reduce the spread of the virus as winter approaching.”

The county council is asking headteachers to call on students to cover their faces in parts of schools - including hallways, stairwells and when queuing for lunch - but not in lessons themselves.

Officials also want to see the use of face coverings adhered to on school buses.

Jane Moore, director of children and families at Leicestershire County Council, said: “Wearing face coverings in communal areas of schools does not have a big impact on delivering education.

“But it would have a big impact on reducing the spread of the virus.

“And if we can reduce transmission among young people that protects their parents and grandparents.”

The council is asking for the additional face covering in schools to be kept in place for the rest of this term – but the situation will be regularly reviewed.

Cllr Deborah Taylor, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for children and families, said: “We are asking parents to support us in getting their children to cover their faces in communal areas.

“It is something that can be introduced quickly and that we hope will help keep infections in check.

“I’d like to thank school staff for hard work over this term.

“We know how difficult things are in schools at the moment and how hard everyone is working to continue to support children.”

The council is urging all secondary school pupils to take twice-weekly rapid lateral flow tests.

The authority is stressing that vaccination remains the best way to protect people against the virus.

Everyone aged over 12 who is eligible has now been invited to receive their Covid-19 vaccine.

The Covid-19 vaccination programme in secondary schools will provide protection to children who are vaccinated and help to reduce disruption to face to face education this winter.

Very few healthy children and young people with Covid-19 infection go on to become seriously ill.

But vaccinating them should help to reduce the need for them to have time off school and cut the risk of spread of Covid-19 within schools.