'30 Covid-19 outbreaks in English schools after they reopened'

23 August 2020, 12:41

A social distancing banner on school gates
A social distancing banner on school gates. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

There were 30 outbreaks of coronavirus in English schools after they reopened, according to analysis by Public Health England.

A report published on Sunday said the reopening of schools following the easing of national lockdown was associated with a total of 198 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 70 in children and 128 in staff.

There were 67 single confirmed cases, four "co-primary" cases and 30 outbreaks of Covid-19 in schools during June, it added.

A total of 121 cases were linked to the outbreaks, 30 in children and 91 in staff, the analysis said.

The report comes as the UK's chief medical officers said children are more at risk of long-term harm if they do not attend school than if they return to the classroom.

In the study, co-primary cases were defined as two or more confirmed cases with a common epidemiological link diagnosed at the same time, while outbreaks were defined as two or more epidemiologically linked cases where subsequent cases were diagnosed within 14 days.

Outbreaks were usually small in size and more than half (53%) involved just one secondary case, the analysis said.

The report said there was a "strong correlation" between community coronavirus incidence and risk of outbreaks in educational settings, even during a period of low Covid-19 incidence.

But it added this was not surprising because increased community transmission provided more opportunities for the virus to be introduced into educational settings.

The analysis said further school closures may be necessary in regions with increasing community infection, but this should only be considered "in extremis".

It said: "The potential for spread within educational settings, as observed from the wider swabbing of some schools in our surveillance and from recent reports from other countries, does suggest that school closures may be necessary as part of lockdown in regions with increasing community infection, although given what is known about the detrimental effects of lack of access to education on child development, these should probably be considered only in extremis by comparison with other lockdown measures."

Education settings in England were asked to reopen to children in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 at the start of June, extending to Year 10 and 12 students from June 15, the analysis said.

But it said the reopening was not mandatory and was met with "mixed responses", with only 1.6 million of the 8.9 million pupils nationally attending any educational setting during the "summer mini-term".

The analysis also said the majority of cases linked to outbreaks were in staff, and warned staff need to be "more vigilant" for exposure outside the school.

It found that in half of the 30 confirmed outbreaks, the "probable transmission direction" was staff-to-staff, with seven staff-to-student, six student-to-staff and two student-to-student.

But it said early detection and isolation of staff and students can prevent the progression of an outbreak "in most cases".

It added: "Within the educational setting, the higher risk of SARS-CoV-2 among staff highlights a need to strengthen infection control measures at two levels

"Staff members need to be more vigilant for exposure outside the school setting to protect themselves, their families and the educational setting.

"Within the education premises, stringent infection control measures between staff need to be reinforced, including use of common staff rooms and cross-covering staff across bubbles."

The analysis comes the day after the UK's chief medical officers warned children are more at risk of long-term harm if they do not attend school than if they return to the classroom despite coronavirus.

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Texas School Shooting

Texas massacre gunman ‘walked into school unimpeded’

Argentina Maradona

Flying museum honours Diego Maradona

US secretary of state Antony Blinken speaks at George Washington University

US to leverage bloc opposed to Russia’s war in Ukraine against China – Blinken

A memorial at the site where Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed

Al Jazeera reporter killed by Israeli forces, says Palestinian Authority

Children walk among buildings destroyed during fighting in Mariupol

Russia slams sanctions and seeks to blame West for food crisis

Former US president Donald Trump

Trump ordered to testify in New York civil investigation

Senator Ted Cruz, right, and Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco pray during a vigil in Uvalde following the shooting at Robb Elementary School

Police face questions over delays storming Texas school

Bernie Ecclestone, 91, was arrested after trying to board a flight with a gun

Bernie Ecclestone arrested for trying to board flight in Brazil while carrying gun

A Japanese man spent around 2m yen on a realistic costume to look like his favourite breed of dog

Japanese man spends £12,000 on realistic dog costume so he can live like an animal

German chancellor Olaf Scholz

Germany seeks ‘multipolar’ world, Scholz tells Davos

Albanian prime minister Edi Rama

Albania offers Soviet-built naval base to Nato

Jean-Luc Martinez

Former Louvre president charged with money laundering

Oceanographers Andrew McDonnell, left, and Claudine Hauri, middle, are pictured with engineer Joran Kemme after an underwater glider is pulled aboard the University of Alaska Fairbanks research vessel Nanuq from the Gulf of Alaska

An ocean first: Underwater drone tracks carbon dioxide in Gulf of Alaska

Stormy Flores, 11, sits with a sign bearing the names of the Robb Elementary School shooting victims

Onlookers urged police to charge into Texas school

Pakistan’s defiant former prime minister Imran Khan, centre, during an anti-government rally

Pakistan’s former PM Imran Khan calls off planned sit-in but demands vote

Romance writer Nancy Crampton Brophy, left, watches proceedings in court

‘How To Murder Your Husband’ writer found guilty of murdering her husband