Walsall Council is urging all schools across the borough to reintroduce COVID-Secure measures from this Monday 18 October, to put a stop to the rapidly rising cases of COVID-19.
The ask from Walsall Council’s Director of Public Health Stephen Gunther comes amid high COVID-19 case rates and a gradual weekly increase in cases during the past month.
Over 1,100 Walsall residents have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last seven days (30 September – 6 October), almost half were in those aged 0-19. Data also confirms that the borough is seeing an increase in the rates among older age groups, as infections start to spread within families.
In primary and special schools, advisory measures, from next week, will include considering reintroducing class bubbles, staggering lunch breaks, start and finish times and move all non-essential events online.
Secondary and further education settings, including colleges are being advised to reintroduce face coverings for all school staff and pupils aged 12+ in communal areas unless exempt, consideration of a return to year-group bubbles, social distancing for teaching staff, and consider COVID management for PE classes.
Parents of pupils in secondary school or further education are also being asked to ensure symptom-free tests are carried out twice per week using a lateral flow device (LFD). In all cases, pupils should continue to attend school or college provided they have a negative LFD test result. Individuals should only have a PCR test if they are symptomatic, received a positive LFD, or are identified through NHS Test and Trace as a close contact of a confirmed case.
Stephen Gunther, Director of Public Health for Walsall said:
“With cases of COVID-19 high again in Walsall - including those in the under-19 age groups – we think now is the time for schools to bring back COVID-secure measures.
“Although younger children with no underlying health conditions are less likely to become very ill from the virus, there is a chance that other family members may be more severely affected, particularly those who are clinically vulnerable.
“While they are not compulsory, we hope that they will help schools in the prevention and management of COVID-19 outbreaks and enable children to continue to attend lessons as normal.
“We continue to keep outbreaks in schools under close review and the Public Health team remains available to advise every school on the appropriate measures.”
The latest rollout in the COVID-19 vaccination programme has also begun in a number of Walsall schools this week, with children aged between 12 and 15 eligible to receive a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Evidence suggests one dose cuts the risk of catching the Delta variant by about 55%. It also reduces the chances of people getting very sick or spreading it to someone else.
Parents will be notified when the vaccination team is due to visit their school and are being asked to complete and return any consent forms as soon as possible.
Alternative provision is being arranged for children who are home schooled, in secure services or in specialist mental health settings.
Councillor Stephen Craddock, Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing at Walsall Council, said:
“As a borough, we have to do all we can to come together and help stop the spread of COVID-19. While we know this feels like we are taking a step backwards, the rise in cases means we have to be sensible in our approach.
“I would urge parents to get their 12 – 15 year olds vaccinated. They are our best defence against COVID-19. They help protect young people, and benefit those around them. Vaccination makes people less likely to catch the virus and less likely to pass it on.
“Our priority is to ensure we keep Walsall’s schools open and continue normal education. In order for us to do that and to keep our communities safe and well, we would encourage education settings, pupils and their families to follow our recommendations.”
If case numbers start and continue to improve in Walsall, the additional measures will be withdrawn from the borough’s schools.
See the full list of COVID-19 restrictions.