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Virus transmission ‘rare’ in schools

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Virus transmission ‘rare’ in schools

COVID cases occur mainly in the community rather than in schools, insist Dumfries and Galloway education chiefs.

With 444 positive cases recorded in the region between October 4 and 10, virus numbers are still high.

Since the school term began in mid-August, there have been some temporary closures of schools and nurseries, causing a headache for parents.

At Dumfries and Galloway Council’s education committee last week, councillors discussed the running of education services in these difficult times.

Council leader Elaine Murray asked: “What is the evidence that it’s not being transmitted in schools – and that children are not taking Covid back to their parents?

“What is the evidence that it’s coming in from social settings, but not being transmitted within schools?”

John Thin, the council’s head of education, replied that education and public health officials have gone through positive case details together “in a forensic manner” to try and identify where the infection spread.

He added: “It has been at a very detailed level within schools and we have been able to understand some of the social context that young people have been involved in.

“That has provided sufficient evidence that, in almost all cases, the transmission happens in social settings.

“But not always. We know that children playing together and socialising together, having lunches together, that has caused some in-school transmission.”

He added: “Our schools are the safest of places.

“The mitigations are in place, the risk assessments are in place, and we continue to follow a very stringent programme of ensuring that we are reducing the risk of infection transmission as much as we possibly can.”

A report tabled at the education committee stated that whenever there are staffing shortages in schools or nurseries due to Covid, the aim is to prevent closures wherever possible.

Gillian Brydson, the council’s director for skills, education and learning, said: “Since August we’ve been seeing high numbers of pupils throughout the region testing positive for Covid, but NHS colleagues are meeting regularly with head teachers.

“On the decisions of these daily management team meetings, some schools have had to move to remote learning for some classes, some year groups, or in some cases some nurseries have been affected by temporary closures.

“We have a locally agreed process for managing cases created by our colleagues in public health.

“This process has enabled swift and decisive action to be taken when necessary to stop the spread of the virus in our schools.

“It’s worth highlighting that this term only two of our schools and only one early years setting has had to close for more than a single day.

“Against the backdrop of the high number of cases in our region and normal school contacts no longer being identified as close contacts, this is a great achievement by all of our staff to ensure that mitigations have continued to be observed so that pupils have remained in classrooms and learning this term.”

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