Somerset Primary Schools – Health Director Speaks
Trudi Grant, Public Health Director for Somerset has added to the debate over Primary Schools returning. In an attempt to address concerns raised by the National Education Union she explains: “We obviously do have cases of COVID in primary school age children, although (along with under 5s) they represent our lowest incidence of all age groups.”
With the NHS in danger of being overwhelmed, this might be considered to be a risk too far.
Ms Grant goes on; “What we do not know for sure is whether those cases we have had in primary school age children are the new strain or not as nationally genotyping is only a very small proportion of positive samples and we do not get to know which of these specific samples in our county are the new strain or not. It would be logical to assume that the strains circulating predominantly in the community will also be the strains circulating in school children.“
That being the case, you might assume it would be wise not to increase the risk. It is after all the new strain which is causing concern. It is the new strain which is causing the rapid and steep uptick in case numbers, If Primary School children have this new strain, then it would follow that it will spread rapidly amongst them.
However Ms Grant draws a different conclusion: “Our levels of transmission to date within primary schools has been low which is testament to the efforts that education staff and parents have made. All schools have worked well with us in public health to limit the spread of infection once cases have been identified and we have all learnt more about how to deal with the virus throughout this time, and undoubtedly will continue to do so going forward. Again, much of the spread we have seen in school age children (although not all) is relating to household transmission and transmission outside of the school setting rather than within the school.“
This raises a number of issues:
- The limiting of the spread has been successful to date, but that has not involved the new strain.
- Children will inevitably go home at the end of each day. The fact that transmission may or may not be at home or in school is surely irrelevant. The children are moving between both environments.
- This should not be about whether schools have worked well together or not. It is not a blame game. It is an issue of managing public health. The situation has grown so bad that The Prime Minister will address the nation again tonight. Against this back ground why is it a good idea to encourage unnecessary mixing between households in a school setting?