Public health chiefs to scrutinise impact of one day reopening for primary schools

Prime minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street. Picture: Andrew Parsons/10 D

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown due to the new variant of COVID-19 spreading through England. Picture: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire - Credit: Archant

Public Health officials in Hertfordshire are set to assess the impact on COVID-19 transmission rates after primary schools were allowed to reopen for just one day at the start of the 2021 term.

On Monday, January 4, parents in most areas of the county were encouraged to send their primary age children to school as normal.

But within hours Prime Minister Boris Johnson had scrapped that advice and announced that all schools were to be immediately closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday, January 6, Hertfordshire’s director of public health Jim McManus accepted there would have been "some infection spread" as a result of schools reopening.

He said officials would look at the data in coming weeks to determine the impact it had had in Hertfordshire.


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But he said the spread would be lower than would be the case if all schools had been directed to open.

At the briefing Mr McManus said: “A number of schools were not open. As a result I think the one day will have seen some infection spread – but much less than would have been the case if all schools had been open.”

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Within Hertfordshire, primary schools in Dacorum, East Herts, North Herts, St Albans, Stevenage and Welwyn Hatfield had been expected to open, unless they could not for operational reasons.

The county council has not yet released data on the number of schools that did need to close for operational reasons on Monday.

In a statement issued before the start of the term, the county council had noted the Prime Minister’s expectation that schools would remain open.

But it had also recognised that schools may need to remain closed for ‘operational reasons’, where they were not confident that they could operate safely and effectively due to insufficient teaching staff.

At the briefing it also emerged that the county council received no advance indication that schools were to close from Tuesday.

“We found out at the same time as everybody else,” said executive member for public health and prevention Cllr Tim Hutchings.

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