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Suffolk joins series of councils to take Covid-fighting measures amid spike in cases

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High school students and staff in Suffolk have been told to wear face coverings from next month in an effort to slow the wave of infections sweeping through classrooms.

Suffolk County Council said secondary and higher education students, as well as staff, must wear masks in common areas outside classrooms unless medically exempted.

And only essential visitors are allowed into the school buildings and they must wear face coverings while on site – including parents picking up their children from the playground.

The measures — which have not been rolled out nationally — should be imposed from November 1 and will be reviewed two weeks later, the council said.

Stuart Keeble, the council’s public health director, said the move was in response to high infection rates among students in the area.

It comes as hundreds of schools across England are taking Covid control measures into their own hands, reintroducing face masks, canceling meetings and implementing their own isolation policies.

Official estimates suggest that nearly one in ten high school students in England carry Covid.

Education bosses have blamed a slow rollout of vaccines in children for the rising rates, with only 3 percent of 12- to 15-year-olds against Covid so far in the areas most lagging behind.

Health Minister Sajid Javid revealed this week that children will be able to book their vaccines online next week as part of a temporary strike to protect more young people.

But many parents are hesitant to have their child vaccinated because the risk-benefit ratio is more balanced than in adults.

Suffolk County Council said secondary and higher education students and staff must wear masks in common areas outside classrooms unless medically exempted

A record 111,000 students missed school last week because they tested positive for Covid, official figures announced today.  The number of young people absent because of being infected has doubled since mid-September, as the coronavirus continues to rip through classrooms

A record 111,000 students missed school last week because they tested positive for Covid, official figures announced today. The number of young people absent because of being infected has doubled since mid-September, as the coronavirus continues to rip through classrooms

North and South separate.  Scotland rushes ahead with rolling out the first dose of Covid vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds compared to England.  All 10 best performing areas were north of the border with England where the bottom 10 were located, most of them in London

North and South separate. Scotland rushes ahead with rolling out the first dose of Covid vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds compared to England. All 10 best performing areas were north of the border with England where the bottom 10 were located, most of them in London

NEARLY 219 MILLION SCHOOL DAYS LOST TO COVID-19 IN THE SPRING TERM, DATES SHOW

Pupils in England missed nearly 219 million days of face-to-face education in the spring due to Covid, figures show.

Historically, about 5 percent of school has been missed due to absence during the spring, but in the spring of this year, 57.5% of sessions (half a day) were recorded as missed due to Covid-related reasons.

This equates to nearly 219 million school days, according to data from the Department for Education (DfE).

For most of the spring semester in England, students – with the exception of children of key figures and vulnerable pupils – were told to distance learning until March 8.

An additional 3.3 percent of sessions were missed during the spring due to absence – the equivalent of 12.5 million extra days on top of the 219 million days students were absent due to Covid.

Total absenteeism in special schools was significantly higher at 25.5 percent during the spring period, compared to about 10 percent in the past.

James Bowen, policy director at the NAHT School Leaders’ Union, said: ‘These data serve as a helpful reminder of how disruptive the pandemic has been for children and young people.

“Schools have worked hard to make distance learning possible, but we know that this is not a substitute for sitting in the classroom.

“It also reinforces the need for the government to give schools more recovery funding so that they can provide the students with the support they need.

So far, the government has provided only a fraction of what its own restorer said was needed. Further investments are clearly needed in the forthcoming expenditure review.’

Keeble told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the virus is really making its way through that younger population right now.

He said: ‘For me now it’s also about keeping children in school. We have had approximately 7,300 students tested positive in the past 28 days.

“If we can keep the transfer rate low, we can also keep more students in school while the vaccine runs out for 12- to 15-year-olds.”

Data from the Department for Education shows that 2.6 percent of students — more than 200,000 children, equivalent to 8,000 classrooms — were out of school last week due to the coronavirus, 111,000 of which tested positive.

The Suffolk council said children in the region lost 26,264 days of education in October alone due to positive Covid cases.

Last month, Suffolk’s health chiefs introduced a ‘sibling policy’ advising children and young people aged four to 18 to stay home if their sibling tests positive.

Mr Keeble said there is a risk if the infection starts to spread to the elderly population – including parents and grandparents.

He added: ‘We are starting to see that. In recent weeks we have seen an increase in the age group of the parents of secondary school students.’

He also said that increasing infections among people over 60 is “a concern, there are more vulnerable people in those age groups.”

The government lifted Covid restrictions in schools earlier this year – including face masks and bubbles – as part of No10’s drive to learn to live with the virus.

But ministers released guidelines in August, outlining that some measures could be withdrawn to contain local outbreaks, respond to variants of concern or prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed.

And it was revealed this week that hundreds of schools in England – including in Wiltshire, Staffordshire and Essex – are canceling meetings as Covid continues to rip through classrooms.

Some schools in Wales were advised last month to cancel school-wide meetings.

Scotland, which saw a record number of infections in August after students returned to classrooms, has instructed schools to avoid gatherings and other large gatherings.

It comes as the Department for Education (DfE) revealed today that pupils in England missed nearly 219 million days of face-to-face education in the spring due to Covid.

Historically, about 5 percent of school has been missed due to absence during the spring, but in the spring of this year, 57.5% of sessions (half a day) were recorded as missed due to Covid-related reasons.

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