Hundreds of Covid-19 outbreaks ongoing in Hertfordshire schools

The number of schools recording outbreaks in the county is understood to have risen steadily since the start of term

By Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Monday, 31st January 2022, 10:18 am
Updated Monday, 31st January 2022, 10:21 am

Public health officials are dealing with ‘outbreaks’ of Covid-19 in hundreds of schools across Hertfordshire.

In the three weeks since the start of the new term (on January 4) more than 11,000 children and young people (under-19s) in the county have been diagnosed with the virus.

And officials at the county council say they are now dealing with ‘outbreaks’ of Covid-19 at 352 of Hertfordshire schools.

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That is believed to be the highest number of ongoing outbreaks recorded in schools in Hertfordshire at any one time since the start of the pandemic.

And it comes as Covid measures in schools – such as the wearing of face masks in secondary schools – are being eased.

An outbreak is formally recorded whenever five children, pupils, students or staff (or 10 per cent of that group) – who are likely to have mixed closely – test positive for Covid-19 within a 10-day period.

And the number of schools recording outbreaks in the county is understood to have risen steadily since the start of term.

The latest available data of cases in under-19s (recorded between January 4 and January 22) in the county can also be broken down by geographical area.

In Dacorum there were 226 cases in the 0-4 age group; 474 amongst 5-9s; 408 in the 10-14 age group; and 263 in 15-19s.

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Public health officials from the county council are said to be proactively supporting schools and early years settings – including childminders – to ensure they have an effective outbreak plan.

Commenting on the position in the county’s schools – in light of the changes announced by the government – a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: “We’re working closely with schools and businesses to help them understand and implement the changes announced by the government recently.

“While the Department for Education has removed the requirement for pupils to wear face coverings in classrooms, government guidance is very clear that schools will continue to have discretion to reintroduce face coverings and other measures when there are outbreaks.”

Meanwhile Hertfordshire’s director of public health Jim McManus stresses that the pandemic is not over – and urges residents to ‘keep looking out for one another’.

He says: “Two key reasons we are getting through this latest surge of cases have been the high numbers of people coming forward to get their booster jabs and people changing their behaviour.

“We know in Hertfordshire residents continue to test regularly with LFTs, take a PCR test if they have symptoms, and wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces where they may come into contact with people they do not normally meet.

“This includes adults on ‘school runs’ where space is tight and when meeting in communal areas inside educational settings.

“The pandemic has not ended, so as we move to this new phase of living safely with Covid-19, let’s keep looking out for one another and recognise that we’re all going to be moving forward at our own pace.”

According to the latest data more than 11,197 under-19s were diagnosed with Covid-19 in Hertfordshire between January 4 and January 22.

And cases are most prevalent in the five to nine-year-old age group – where 3,973 cases have been recorded.

Amongst other age groups there were 1637 cases recorded in the 0-4 age group; 3,456 recorded amongst 10-14-year-olds and a further 2,131 in 15 – 19-year-olds.