More Covid measures unveiled as schools prepare for pupils’ return

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Hampshire schools
Measures include bubbles in schools, increased testing, and staggered break times (Photo: stock image)

MORE detailed plans on how to prevent the spread of coronavirus across Hampshire have been unveiled ahead of pupils going back to school next week.

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Increased testing capacity, bubbles in schools, and tests for pupils showing Covid-19 symptoms are among the measures set to be taken across the county, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The news comes as civic chiefs said the number of cases in Hampshire is “lower than the national average” with four cases per 100,000 population.

They said they are not complacent and are encouraging parents to send their children to school next months as new measures will be in place.

Students are expected to be grouped into “bubbles” which could be based on year groups or other criteria such as the number of pupils at each school.

Simon  Bryant,  director of public health at Hampshire County Council, said that if any pupil tests positive to Covid-19 there will be a “a dynamic assessment with schools to work out which children would need to stay at home”.

Risks will be assessed and some children might get tested or isolated, Mr Bryant said.

But he added: “We work on a risk assessment. Each school is managing this in a way appropriate to their setting. We work with schools to ensure we can manage any potential outbreak.”

HCC said it will follow national guidance on the use of face coverings within schools, which at the moment does not require school staff and pupils to wear a face mask.

Other measures include operating one-way systems around school sites; staggering break times and the start and end of the day; frequent handwashing in the daily timetable; providing hand sanitiser in strategic areas; and additional cleaning of school buildings.

HCC said that the closure of any school due to coronavirus will be a “last resort” and only on the advice of the local Public Health England health protection team.

HCC has also confirmed it is looking at ways to increase testing capacity across the county, which could be done through the use of technology.

Mr Bryant said the authority already has in place five vans as mobile testing units which could test 300 people a day, with further available if needed.

Referring to the number of cases, HCC leader Cllr Keith Mans said: “We are at about four per 100,000 (population). Swindon is getting 45 per 100,000 and they are on a watch list.

“My view is that we want to ensure that we identify an increase long before it gets to that point so that we can get action at a smaller level.”

Cllr Mans said testing was key and added: “The more testing we can do the better and we are moving in that direction.”

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