PHE: Nearly half of Covid outbreaks in education settings

Covid-19 variant

Almost half of all suspected outbreaks of Covid recorded last week occurred in education settings, a Public Health England report shows.

The organisation’s latest flu and Covid-19 report shows that of 197 new acute respiratory infection (ARI) “incidents” involving Covid reported in the week ending March 21, 83, or 42 per cent, were reported by education settings.

In comparison, 42 incidents were reported in workplaces and 34 in care homes.

The latest NHS Test and Trace data showed 1,805, or just 0.046 per cent of the nearly four million rapid result Covid tests taken by secondary school pupils between March 11 and 17 returned a positive result.

testNew concerns over rapid tests

Further doubt was cast on the testing efforts this week after an independent review found rapid lateral flow tests, the kind used in schools, were less effective in identifying the virus in asymptomatic people.

The review, published by the Cochrane Library, found the tests correctly identify on average 72 per cent of symptomatic people with the virus, but this dropped to 58 per cent in those with no symptoms.

It comes after the Department for Education told schools that it was “vital” that staff and secondary pupils continue to test themselves at home throughout the Easter holidays.

They should “continue to test twice weekly” over the break, and report test results online, the DfE said.

Staff, pupils and parents at secondary schools and colleges must also take a Covid test before returning for the summer term.

Attendance ‘impacted by levels of testing’

School attendance data released on Tuesday shows the number of secondary school pupils self-isolating due to a potential contact with a Covid case in school increased by 461 per cent.

Last Thursday, 58,400 secondary pupils were self-isolating due to potential in-school contact, compared with 10,400 the week before.

Overall, 201,000 pupils across England’s state schools were off because of Covid on March 18, up from 78,000 the previous week.

The DfE said that the pupil absence rate due to confirmed cases and self-isolation “may be impacted by levels of testing”.

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