22 coronavirus cases linked to Dundee school after PM claimed risk 'very small'

24 August 2020, 13:25

17 members of staff, two pupils and three community contacts have been traced to a cluster at Kingspark School in Dundee
17 members of staff, two pupils and three community contacts have been traced to a cluster at Kingspark School in Dundee. Picture: Google Street View

By Megan White

22 coronavirus cases have been linked to a school in Scotland as Boris Johnson said the risk of children contracting Covid-19 in schools is "very, very, very small."

17 members of staff, two pupils and three community contacts have been traced to a cluster at Kingspark School in Dundee.

NHS Tayside has advised staff to self-isolate from the last day they attended the site, with pupils told to self-isolate for two weeks from August 20.

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They also said anyone who lives with a pupil, such as parents, carers or siblings, should self-isolate for 14 days if they are unable to maintain physical distancing within the household from August 20.

Cases have been linked to two other schools in Dundee, with one at the Primary 2A class at St Peter and Paul’s School in Dundee and another linked to Happy Times out-of school club at Downfield Primary School.

The news came as the Prime Minister warned parents that children’s "life chances" will be under threat if they don’t go back to school in September.

He said: "I think parents are genuinely still a bit worried about their children contracting coronavirus. All I can say is the risks are very, very, very small that they'll even get it, but then the risk that they'll suffer from it badly are very, very, very, very small indeed.

"I think it's vital that parents understand that schools are safe and that teachers have gone to great lengths to get schools ready. They've been doing it all throughout the pandemic, by the way.

"Lots of schools have been open and looking after kids very, very successfully and will take steps to ensure that groups aren't mixed up, that we have washing of hands and all the other disciplines you need to prevent spread of the virus."

A Public Health England (PHE) analysis, published on Sunday, found there were 67 single confirmed cases, four "co-primary cases" (two or more linked cases diagnosed at the same time) and 30 outbreaks of Covid-19 in schools during June.

Many pupils across England have not been in schools since the national lockdown began in March when schools were shut, with the exemption of some which still accepted the children of key workers.

Dr Ellie Hothersall, Consultant in Public Health Medicine with NHS Tayside, said, “Since the identification of positive cases at Kingspark, a detailed contact tracing programme has been under way and these linked cases are being identified because of those concerted efforts of Test and Protect.

“We must do everything we can to protect all of our communities against COVID-19 and that is why we have issued the guidance to self-isolate.

“By taking this action we are containing any further spread of infection.

“We know that this may cause anxiety to some parents and children but we must do everything we can to ensure we keep people safe.”

Paul Clancy, Dundee City Council Executive Director of Children and Families Services, said: “I would like to reassure families that this action is being taken to keep everyone safe. This is our paramount concern and we cannot be complacent.”

Mr Johnson’s comments follow a statement made by the UK’s chief medical officers that “very few, if any” pupils would come to long-term harm from the virus by going to school, while there was a “certainty” of harm from not going back to class.

Schools in Scotland reopened earlier this month, while those in Northern Ireland will welcome pupils again on Monday. English and Welsh schools will follow suit in September.

Mr Johnson said: "I have previously spoken about the moral duty to reopen schools to all pupils safely, and I would like to thank the school staff who have spent the summer months making classrooms Covid-secure in preparation for a full return in September.

"We have always been guided by our scientific and medical experts, and we now know far more about coronavirus than we did earlier this year.

JOINT STATEMENT FROM NHS TAYSIDE AND DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL COVID-19: Kingspark School and linked cases update Update...

Posted by NHS Tayside on Sunday, 23 August 2020

"As the chief medical officer has said, the risk of contracting Covid-19 in school is very small and it is far more damaging for a child's development and their health and wellbeing to be away from school any longer.

"This is why it's vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends. Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school."