Covid-19 advice for Hertfordshire schools planning Christmas events

Public health bosses are currently dealing with 233 ‘outbreaks’ in schools and early years settings across the county

Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 10:00 am

New guidance has been issued to schools across Hertfordshire as they finalise their plans for ‘Christmas events’, in a bid to halt the spread of Covid-19.

School plays, pantomimes, carol concerts and parties are usually a given in the run-up to the end of the autumn term.

But latest available data shows that in the past week (to November 23) almost 3,000 children and young people tested positive for the virus in Hertfordshire.

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And public health bosses are currently dealing with 233 ‘outbreaks’ in schools and early years settings across the county.

Now all Hertfordshire schools have been issued with a new guide to help them plan and risk assess their plans for ‘Christmas events’.

And public health experts are reviewing specific plans with every school and early years setting that is ‘in outbreak’.

“This year planning for Christmas also needs to take into account Covid-19 risks so that any event can be enjoyed safely, balancing the benefit of the activity with the risk associated with Covid-19 transmission,” says the advice issued to schools by the county council.

“It is a legal requirement that settings undertake a risk assessment for events, with consideration given to any additional risks and control measures needing to be put in place.

“There is no blanket recommendation in place that such events should be cancelled, your outbreak management plan should consider these events based on circumstances within your setting.

“In the event of an outbreak, you should be prepared to change or cancel events depending on the scale of the outbreak, associated risks, and advice from the HCC Public Health team.”

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Moving events outside, live streaming or filming of performances, keeping windows open and the wearing of face coverings are all options included in the guide.

Highlighting concerts and other performances the guide points to the increased risk of aerosols from singing or playing wind and brass instruments.

And it urges schools to pay attention to the size of the audience, ventilation and the use of face coverings – suggesting limiting audiences or running a series of smaller events.

In the event of an outbreak it suggests numbers are limited or that the event is live-streamed or filmed for parents.

The advice also suggests that Christmas Fayres could be moved outside ‘to embrace the winter market feel’ – or that rooms should be ventilated in advance and windows kept partially open.

It also suggests schools remind visitors not to attend if they are symptomatic, encourage them to take rapid lateral flow tests in advance and that face coverings be “strongly recommended”.

But inevitably for some schools it is likely to lead to events – festive or otherwise – being changed or even cancelled.

And the advice to schools stresses that in the event of an outbreak they should be prepared to change or cancel their events.

Public health bosses in Hertfordshire say that there was a dip in the case rates (per 100k of population) over half-term.

But, they say, this did not lead to a corresponding dip in the number of ‘outbreaks’ in schools.

An ‘outbreak’ is recorded when 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.

Commenting on the ‘Christmas events’ advice, the county council’s executive member for education, libraries and lifelong learning Cllr Terry Douris stresses that the approach will be determined by each school, depending on their own circumstances.

He said: “We have got no blanket recommendations in place across the county.

“And what we are saying is that individual schools will know how best to handle individual events, taking place indoors or outside their school.”

According to the latest Hertfordshire data in the w/e November 23, there were 2,842 confirmed cases amongst children and young people – with 260 aged 0-4; 1160 aged 5-9; 1009 aged 10-14; and 413 aged 15-19.

In Dacorum the breakdown of children confirmed to have Covid-19 by age group, is: 35 aged 0-4; 105 aged 5-9; 109 aged 10-14; and 46 aged 15-19.

In Broxbourne the breakdown of children confirmed to have Covid-19 by age group, is: 19 aged 0-4; 71 aged 5-9; 39 aged 10-14; and 19 aged 15-19.

In East Herts the breakdown of children confirmed to have Covid-19 by age group, is: 31 aged 0-4; 162 aged 5-9; 185 aged 10-14; and 66 aged 15-19.

In Hertsmere the breakdown of children confirmed to have Covid-19 by age group, is: 22 aged 0-4; 79 aged 5-9; 68 aged 10-14; and 38 aged 15-19.

In North Herts the breakdown of children confirmed to have Covid-19 by age group, is: 41 aged 0-4; 241 aged 5-9; 149 aged 10-14; and 53 aged 15-19.

In St Albans the breakdown of children confirmed to have Covid-19 by age group, is: 39 aged 0-4; 119 aged 5-9; 98 aged 10-14; and 34 aged 15-19.

In Stevenage the breakdown of children confirmed to have Covid-19 by age group, is: 13 aged 0-4; 75 aged 5-9; 84 aged 10-14; and 28 aged 15-19.

In Three Rivers the breakdown of children confirmed to have Covid-19 by age group, is: 21 aged 0-4; 99 aged 5-9; 93 aged 10-14; and 32 aged 15-19.

In Watford the breakdown of children confirmed to have Covid-19 by age group, is: 23 aged 0-4; 82 aged 5-9; 73 aged 10-14; and 47 aged 15-19.

In Welwyn Hatfield the breakdown of children confirmed to have Covid-19 by age group, is: 16 aged 0-4; 127 aged 5-9; 111 aged 10-14; and 50 aged 15-19.