'Unfortunate, but not a surprise' - Public health bosses reaction as 30 Sunderland schools record coronavirus cases

Sunderland health bosses say they were prepared for schools to be hit by coronavirus cases when term began as 30 schools in the area have reported cases.

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 7:00 am

Sunderland City Council said it was told back in May to focus its plans on schools and care homes and teams worked to prepare schools for potential outbreaks at the start of the new academic year.

The council said it is ‘unfortunate’ the rise in cases across Wearside, as well as the wider region, came at the same time as classes returned, leading to 30 across the city to take action due to positive tests and suspected cases among year groups and staff.

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Students wear protective face masks as they head to lessons. Photo by PA.

The schools have been praised for their work to put measures in place and their efforts to follow the guidance, and the council’s director of public health says all schools are working hard to keep them open as much as possible while mitigating the risks of the virus.

A helpline run by the Department for Education has been launched to help them reach information in addition to one set up by Public Health England due to the demand for support.

Gillian Gibson, director of public health with the council, said: “It is really unfortunate because we started to see an increase in cases just as the schools were going back, so we had two things happening at the same time, so it is probably not a surprise.

"This is something we were asked to focus on back in May.

"What we have been trying to do is reduce the spread and we have been getting ready for the kids to come back and they have all taken measures in place to help and try prevent an outbreak.

"Schools have staff members who socialise, kids who see each other outside of school, and we can try and do everything we can to keep schools open, because we recognise children have lost a lot of their education this year and we don't want that to continue.”

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