Covid infection rates among school-age children peaked over Christmas, new data shows, with as many as 1 in 18 older pupils in London testing positive.
The Office for National Statistics has published its latest infection survey data, the first since Christmas eve.
The survey shows that the ONS believes the proportion of primary and secondary pupils in years 7 to 11 testing positive peaked around Christmas but then started to fall over the rest of the break, though infections among sixth form pupils and young adults have continued to rise.
The National Education Union has raised concerns about the peak in infection levels and about rates in certain parts of England, after the underlying survey data showed the proportion of 12 to 16-year-olds in London testing positive reached 5.68 per cent during the period from December 20 to January 2.
It comes after London mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” in the capital, after the number of patients in hospital with Coronavirus soared.
“These figures are truly shocking and entirely the result of government negligence,” said Dr Mary Bousted, the NEU’s joint general secretary.
“The fact that the government has consistently downplayed the risk of large groups gathering in schools without social distancing in poorly ventilated buildings and with minimal mask wearing has undoubtedly contributed to the dire situation the country is currently in.”
The ONS said that in the most recent week the percentage of people testing positive “has increased in all age groups apart from school age children and those aged 35 to 49 years”.
“Rates in primary school age children are no longer increasing, but this change is relatively recent and needs to be viewed with caution.”
It comes after the government launched legal action against Greenwich Council for trying to close schools early for Christmas.
Ministers enacted partial school closures across England on Monday, after admitting that existing tier 4 restrictions had not done enough to combat a new strain of the virus.