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Cambridgeshire schools urged to reintroduce mask wearing amid rise in Covid-19 cases

Public health officials in Cambridgeshire are urging schools to reintroduce mask wearing and increased social distancing amid a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Cambridgeshire schools urged to reintroduce mask wearing amid rise in Covid-19 cases
Cambridgeshire schools urged to reintroduce mask wearing amid rise in Covid-19 cases

The news comes as data shows more than 50 per cent of recent infections in all areas of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are in the 0-17 age group.

There has also recently been a slight increase in the older age groups as infections start to spread into families.

Jyoti Atri, director of Public Health for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: “We know that younger children are less likely to have a poor outcome after being affected by the virus, but they live in families within communities where there are others who may be more clinically vulnerable.

“These are sensible precautionary measures that I would recommend are followed. The vaccination campaign, currently being rolled out in schools, will offer school children, teachers and families greater protection.”

The advice covers the next three weeks until half term and includes:

  • Secondary schools reintroduce face coverings in communal spaces, but not in classrooms. Primary school staff may wish to consider the same arrangements
  • Social distancing for staff within school buildings, including in shared spaces such as staff rooms. It is also recommended that staff meetings are held virtually if possible
  • All visitors to schools must wear face coverings in school buildings
  • All non-essential events where parents visit schools are moved to virtual
  • Secondary schools should promote and monitor uptake of twice weekly LFD testing and Covid-19 vaccinations for all staff and pupils. Primary school staff should also be doing this and staff need to be reminded of its importance.

Jonathan Lewis, director of education for Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council, said: “Our aim at all times is to keep schools open and to continue normal education wherever we can. That is why we are recommending these measures to protect more vulnerable pupils and staff from contracting the virus and also potentially taking it home to others.

“The vaccination programme for 12 to 15-year-olds has now begun in our schools and we have been pleased with its uptake so far as this will offer further protection.”

The advice comes as three Cambridgeshire districts feature in the table of those with the fastest rising COVID-19 rates of all 333 English local authority areas.

East Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and Fenland all feature in the top 20 list of areas where infection rates are rising most quickly - with all three areas showing higher rates of infections than both the East of England and England averages to September 28.

Only Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire are currently below the regional or England average.

Cambridgeshire schools urged to reintroduce mask wearing amid rise in Covid-19 cases
Cambridgeshire schools urged to reintroduce mask wearing amid rise in Covid-19 cases

The county council had warned on Monday that restrictions could return following a rise in cases.

It also warned that children could be temporarily moved to remote learning if the number of Covid-19 cases in a school leaves insufficient staff to operate them safely.

Comberton Village College confirmed that it has cancelled its open evening tonight (Thursday, October 7) following the advice, which was issued to schools late last night. Virtual tours are available on the school’s website.

In a letter posted on the village college’s website, principal Peter Law said: “I’m really sorry that this is the case and for any disappointment that this will cause: we were very much looking forward to seeing you this evening.”

“I hope that this ‘virtual tour’ will give you a good feel for life here at Comberton Village College. I realise that this is not the same as an actual visit and am sorry that at such short notice we have to cancel this event.”

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