Monday 14th June 2021
I have received new guidance from Public Health and feel it important to pass it on to you.
I’m sure you’ll already be aware that a COVID-19 variant of concern has been confirmed within our region. The variant, first discovered in India and now named ‘Delta’ by the World Health Organisation, does not appear to cause more severe illness than other strains and thankfully, the number of overall cases remains relatively low.
Early evidence suggests this variant transmits more easily than other variants circulating in the UK but there is currently no evidence to suggest it is more resistant to vaccination.
Schools and businesses across our region and in South Tyneside have been affected by small, localised outbreaks and as we know from previous experience, this is likely to result in spread among the wider community.
This means that an outbreak in school amongst staff or pupils is likely to affect more people than before, increasing the risk of disruption to our schoolchildren.
I’m writing to ask for your help in keeping the infection rate in South Tyneside low. There are keyways to protect yourself, your school and the wider community:
Vaccines remain the best protection we have against COVID-19, including this variant.
The vaccination programme is progressing quickly, with younger groups becoming eligible every few days.
Please get your vaccine as soon as possible. The more people who are vaccinated, the harder it is for the virus to spread and to ultimately reach those who are vulnerable.
Appointments can be booked by calling 119 or at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine/
Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 don’t have any symptoms, so all adults and secondary school age pupils are encouraged to carry out testing twice a week. This helps identify individuals who could be spreading the virus without realising.
Just to remind you that all parents and carers that they can collect free lateral flow testing kits from pharmacies and local community sites, or order online or by phone for home delivery.
It’s also important that the test results – whether positive or negative – are reported to the NHS and not just the school so that the spread of the virus can be monitored. I would therefore encourage you to remind parents and carers to report online at www.gov.uk/report-covid19-results
PCR tests are more reliable than lateral flow tests, so anyone who develops symptoms – no matter how mild – should arrange a PCR test straight away.
You’ll be aware that the guidance recently changed just before half-term and now all close contacts of positive cases are asked to book a PCR test as soon as possible to try to stop the spread of the more transmissible variants.
Again, it’s vital that close contacts continue to isolate for 10 days even if they have a negative PCR test.
This strain of the virus is no different from any other in that it is more likely to spread in enclosed areas used by lots of people.
Despite the change in guidance for schools on the use of face coverings, discretion may be needed in the case of schools where there are outbreaks, local cases increase or where variants of concern have been identified. In any of those instances Public Health will review the situation and may recommend the reintroduction of face coverings as an additional public health measure. Additionally, if parents and carers are coming into the school yard and not social distancing adequately, they will be asked to use face coverings on these occasions to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Finally, I want to thank you all for your continued efforts in helping to ensure our schools stay open and our pupils continue to get the best education possible.
Director of Public Health