'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.

Senior Tory MP calls on Boris Johnson to create schools catchup programme 'left behind' children

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

US President Joe Biden

Joe Biden ‘more receptive to standing down after senior Democrats turn on President’ as he battles Covid

Vance hailed Donald Trump as America's "best hope".

Donald Trump is the 'best hope for America', says vice-president pick JD Vance

Jessica Lawson drowned on a school trip in 2015

French lifeguard and local council found guilty of manslaughter after Brit girl, 12, drowned in lake on school trip

President Joe Biden walks to his car after stepping off of Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. Biden is returning to his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid

Biden tests positive for Covid and cancels Vegas campaign event after saying he would only quit race on doctors' orders

Joe Biden has hinted he could step aside from the race against Donald Trump for the White House

Biden hints he could quit election race against Trump on medical advice, as top Democrat calls for him to stand down

Two British travel agents are believed to be the pair found shot dead and their bodies burned in a car in Malmo.

British travel agents thought to be pair shot dead and burned in car in Malmo

Enzo Fernandez filmed himself and his Argentina teammates singing an offensive song

Chelsea star Enzo Fernandez apologises to teammates after starting ‘racist’ chant with Argentina players

Jay Slater's family will fly back with his body

Jay Slater's family to return to UK with his body as his heartbroken mum begins funeral plans

Six people were found dead at a luxury hotel in Bangkok died from cyanide

Six people who died 'foaming at the mouth' in five-star luxury Thai hotel were poisoned by drinks laced with cyanide

Joe Biden has vowed to outlaw the gun used to shoot at Donald Trump

Joe Biden vows to outlaw assault rifle gunman used to shoot at Donald Trump, as he says 'politics has got too heated'

Enzo Fernandez filmed himself and his Argentina teammates singing an offensive song

Chelsea star Enzo Fernandez slammed by teammate Fofana for 'uninhibited racism' after offensive chant

Snipers weren't placed on the "sloping roof" used by the shooter who attempted to assassinate Presidential nominee Donald Trump over "safety concerns", the head of the US Secret Service has admitted.

Snipers weren't placed on 'sloping roof' used by would-be Trump assassin over 'safety' concerns

Two Brits have been shot dead in Sweden - their bodies were found in a burnt out car in  Fosie, Malmo

Two Brits shot dead and set on fire in double murder in Sweden with attacker ‘prepared to strike again’

Jack Black has cancelled the rest of his Tenacious D tour after his bandmate Kyle Gass made a comment on the assassination attempt on Donald Trump on stage on Sunday night.

Jack Black cancels tour over Tenacious D bandmate's Trump assassination comment

Six people have died at the Grand Hyatt Erwan Hotel in downtown Bangkok

Mystery as six found dead 'foaming at the mouth at luxury Bangkok hotel 'after being poisoned with cyanide'

The Spanish Civil Guard said Jay Slater, from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, could have fallen in a steep and inaccessible area

Jay Slater's best friend Lucy Law pays heartbreaking tribute to 'happiest' person after his ‘deteriorated’ body found