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Suffolk schools to get new Covid rules from this week



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A new protocol for schools to manage Covid-19 rates is set to be brought in across Suffolk this week.

The Department for Education has been working with Suffolk County Council's public health and education teams to draw up a three-level plan of measures needed depending on how many cases schools have.

Details of those measures have not yet been publicised, but council chiefs have confirmed the protocol will be finalised and implemented this week after school leaders have been briefed today and tomorrow.

1213090148 (53042995)
1213090148 (53042995)

A spokeswoman from the council said: "The plan proposes a three-level stepped up approach with different control measures at each level and differences between early years, primary, and secondary school and college settings.

"It includes a flowchart guide for settings to identify what level they are at and definitions of the recommended measures.

"The plan has been produced with input from education sector leads and is currently with the local Health Protection Board members for review. If no objections are received, it will be signed by the board, finalised and implemented."

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL (53042999)
Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL (53042999)

It comes as part of Suffolk's designation as an Enhanced Response Area (ERA), which garners national support to tackle Covid rates.

Stuart Keeble, pictured, director of public health in Suffolk, said: "As part of the ERA we have also been working with schools and Department for Education colleagues about developing a new protocol to support schools in stepping up and down measures to make sure we are responsive and not over responding to the current situation.

"As part of this also, we are looking at moving across to, where possible, daily contact testing for close household contacts. We still need to develop the detail around that but as part of that we have been asking for support about how we can implement that to try and keep children in school as much as possible.

Coronavirus concept. Microscope virus close up. 3d rendering. (53042997)
Coronavirus concept. Microscope virus close up. 3d rendering. (53042997)

"We had already put some action in place before the ERA but it helps to cement it around guidance.

"We have brought in the face coverings in school and controls around visitor limitations, and the aim around that is very much about trying to keep children in school and trying to keep rates down in schools.

"So far we have seen a positive picture from the half term, but we still need to see what is going to happen over the coming weeks about whether we will see the rates creep up."

Currently 16 schools are dealing with outbreaks of the virus, with weekly school cases now between 600 and 800 compared to the 2,000 prior to half term.

"We are still dealing with outbreaks in schools," Mr Keeble told Friday's Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting.

"We have got 16 at the moment which is far less than what we saw before half term, but although the rates have come down in those age groups we are still seeing a large number of children testing positive."

Mr Keeble said the October half term had "provided a bit of a firebreak" but needed to continue monitoring numbers as youngsters returned.

More details on the new protocol are expected this week.

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Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk