Schoolchildren urged to get tested as Covid rates among teens rocket

Secondary schools in the region are being hit by some of their highest Covid-19 rates yet with mobile testing units moving to some sites to curb the spread.

Pupils in the region are being urged to get Covid tests
Pupils in the region are being urged to get Covid tests

Health chiefs say cases in Stafford and Walsall are among their highest for teenagers with cases having rocketed.

In Wolverhampton there has been more than 300 cases of Covid among pupils and staff reported to council chiefs in less than two weeks.

Councillor Dr Michael Hardacre, Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member for education and skills, said: “With over 1,000 people testing positive for Covid-19 in Wolverhampton last week, and cases increasing in schools across the country, it is no surprise that the Government has extended testing requirements until the end of term.”

It comes as chiefs look to ramp up testing across the affected areas in the region – with dedicated mobile testing units being rolled out shortly in Staffordshire.

Schools in Stafford, Cannock Chase, Staffordshire Moorlands, Lichfield and Tamworth will have the testing units on site, in an effort to discover cases of Covid-19 and isolate them as soon as possible.

Dr Johnny McMahon, cabinet support member for health and integrated care at Staffordshire County Council, said: “We’re seeing the biggest rise in cases amongst the 11 to 18 age group, which is why we’ve arranged for mobile testing units to be at secondary schools in the county, particularly in the areas where we’ve seen the most cases.”

“In the past when we have seen cases rise, we have found that testing is key to discover more cases, isolate these, and stop any further spread. I would also urge those pupils who aren’t having PCR tests to continue having twice-weekly LFT tests at home, as this is another way we can stop the spread.

“Schools and parents have been fantastic so far, and I am sure they will continue to do everything they can to help drive Covid-19 cases down in schools.”

Some schools have seen Covid rates rise sharply

Latest figures, for the week up to September 25, show rates in Staffordshire stand at 495 per 100,000 of the population – above both the West Midlands and England rates.

Meanwhile, the requirement for secondary aged pupils – and all school staff – to take a rapid Covid-19 test twice a week has been extended until the end of the current term by the Government.

Councillor Dr Michael Hardacre, Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member for education and skills, said: “With over 1,000 people testing positive for Covid-19 in Wolverhampton last week, and cases increasing in schools across the country, it is no surprise that the Government has extended testing requirements until the end of term.

“Secondary pupils and all school staff should ensure they take a rapid test twice a week, and I would encouraged family members to do likewise to reassure themselves and others that they don’t have Covid-19.

“And anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus, no matter how mild, must self-isolate and get a PCR as soon as possible. If everyone does this, we can help keep the virus out of our schools.”

Latest figures show there were 381.6 new cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people in Wolverhampton over the last seven days. That means 1,004 people tested positive for the virus in that same period – though the true number of cases will likely be higher.

In Walsall, figures on Tuesday showed the infection rate for 11 to 16s was up more than treble the average at around 1,100 per 100,000 people.

Councillor Stephen Craddock, portfolio holder for health and wellbeing said: “The virus hasn’t gone away, it is just as deadly and lethal as it has ever been. I know several people who have had two vaccinations but have been very ill with Covid even after.”

Councillor Dr Michael Hardacre is not surprised the Government has extended testing requirements. Photo: Wolverhampton City Council.

Geraint Griffiths-Dale, Clinical Commissioning Group managing director for Walsall, said they were hoping to start the vaccination programme for 12 to 15-year-olds shortly.

He said: “We are about to start the vaccination programme for 12-15 year olds.

“We should be in the first schools within the next week or so which will be a big step forward to reducing those Covid levels in secondary schools.

“The original programme was to deliver the two doses and we’ve got very high vaccination rates in Walsall but there are still a significant population still to come forward.

“We are also just about to launch the programme for the third jab – the winter booster.”

He added: “We are already working on an enhanced winter plan as we expect the system to get a lot busier. This will be one of our most challenging winters as an NHS.”

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