Schools in Calderdale are being advised to consider additional public health measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Rates of COVID-19 in Calderdale are higher than they’ve ever been throughout the pandemic and unfortunately this is causing severe pressures on health and social care services.

Although the fantastic uptake of the vaccine in Calderdale has weakened the link between high numbers of cases and serious illness, it hasn’t broken it all together.

Local hospitals are continuing to see high numbers of patients with COVID-19.  The virus still poses a threat to individuals and communities and so we need to do all we can to protect NHS services and slow the spread of the virus.

Overall case rates in Calderdale have never been as high. Cases are currently highest in secondary school-aged children, followed by those of primary school age, who are coming into contact with COVID-19 at school. The virus is then being passed on to family members and spreading through the community.

To try and bring the situation under control, the Council is advising secondary schools to consider asking staff and students to use face coverings and advising all schools to consider how they can limit mixing between groups and limit visitors. 

Any measures would be introduced and implemented by schools who know their communities best and understand which measures would be most effective. Throughout the pandemic, the Council has worked closely with schools to keep children and staff as safe as possible and will continue to support them to reintroduce measures if they wish to do so.

As the risk of the virus spreading further is greatest within households, the Council is also asking children and young people who live in a household where someone has COVID-19, to stay away from school for 3-5 days, get a PCR test and only return to school if they receive a negative PCR test result. Calderdale parents and carers will soon receive a letter explaining the measures.

The introduction of these measures will help reduce transmission of the virus within schools and subsequently households and wider communities. They will also limit the amount of disruption to young people’s education. As children aged 4 and under are currently less likely to catch and spread the virus the additional measures are not advised for early years settings at the moment.

Calderdale Council’s Director of Public Health, Debs Harkins, said:

“As we all learn to live with COVID-19, we need to find the right balance between minimising the risk of infection, reducing disruption to our lives and ensuring our health and care services aren’t overwhelmed.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing real pressures within our hospitals at the moment, due to the extremely high numbers of COVID-19 cases in the borough. Contact tracing data shows that the high number of cases is being caused by the virus spreading in education settings, and we need to bring the situation under control.

“To prevent COVID-19 transmission within schools as much as possible, we are advising that additional public health measures are introduced. The specifics of these measures will be led by schools who know what will work best for them. However, we will continue to support schools in any way we can and offer our advice to help them make the best decisions for their school and community.”

The Leader of Calderdale Council, Cllr Tim Swift, said:

“Schools have been working incredibly hard to protect pupils, staff and the wider school community and we want to support their efforts as much as we can. Work is also taking place within schools, delivered by the NHS working in partnership with the Council, to ensure 12-15 year olds are offered their first dose of the vaccine. We know how disruptive the pandemic has been for schools and we want to minimise this and keep as many young people in school as possible.

“The introduction of additional measures will support this by reducing COVID-19 transmission both within schools and wider communities. This will in turn also minimise pressure on our already stretched health and social care services as we head into what’s likely to be a very difficult winter period.”

We can all protect ourselves, loved ones and health and care services by doing the five big things:

  • Give others space
  • Wear a face covering in high-risk places
  • Get tested and self-isolate if notified to do so
  • Mix outside or let air in
  • Get both doses of the vaccine if you are eligible, and the booster when available

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 you should book a free NHS test as soon as possible. You can also phone 119. Stay at home until it is time to take your test.