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Health update: Self-isolation, schools and support

A message from Julie Webster, Wirral’s Director of Public Health

Dear residents,

As you may know, the Government has confirmed it will be reviewing the current policy around school pupils isolating after being in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in their school bubble.

We currently estimate there are around 3,300 pupils self-isolating at home as they have been identified by schools as being a close contact of a COVID-19 case. This also applies to approximately 250 staff from educational settings.

The majority of our educational settings have now had at least one case. Numbers are low and manageable for most, but eight of our local schools have now had 10 or more cases, and Wirral has seen seven school outbreaks over the last two weeks.

Although numbers of new infections continue to rise, at present Wirral’s numbers are lower than many other areas and school-age cases still represent less than 6% of the total Wirral pupil population.

However, the number of new infections means that there are still around 3,300 families affected and this is resulting in considerable community disruption as parents take time off work to care for their children. This also has a significant knock-on effect for the local economy.

At this stage it is vital that everyone follows the instructions to isolate when told to, but there is support available to help families, particularly financial support for those on low incomes – details of which can be accessed via www.wirral.gov.uk/covidpayment.

In the meantime, ahead of the summer break, we are taking action and have asked schools to reintroduce mask wearing. We are also reinforcing the importance of carrying out twice weekly symptom-free tests for secondary school students and their families and working with schools to reduce events which might lead to spreading infection. My public health team will continue to work closely with schools alongside the council’s Children’s Services and local NHS colleagues to ensure the borough’s children are protected.

Although the number of infections is rising, hospital admissions for COVID-19 remain low compared to other phases of the pandemic, which provides significant evidence for the effectiveness of the vaccine. Therefore, I would also use this opportunity to urge everyone who is eligible to take up the vaccination or second jab – this is the best way you can protect yourself, your family and your community.

Thanks for reading and for your continued patience. Please, look after yourselves and each other.

Julie

Symptom-free testing:

It is really important that everyone takes a symptom-free test twice a week, particularly if you are attending secondary school because you can spread the virus without knowing. To get a symptom-free COVID-19 test or request a testing kit, for locations and dates visit: www.wirral.gov.uk/mobiletesting.

Symptoms-only testing:

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolate immediately and order a PCR test by post or take a test at one of our symptoms-only test centres in Birkenhead, Bebington, Liscard or Heswall. COVID-19 testing for people who have symptoms | www.wirral.gov.uk

You should not attend the symptom-free mobile testing centres if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been told to self-isolate. 

Get vaccinated:

Walk-in clinics are open to all adults aged 18 and over to get their first vaccine dose and to those who have already been invited for their vaccine but didn't come forward for whatever reason. No appointment is needed. For more information visit: www.wirralccg.nhs.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine/covid-19-vaccination-walk-in-clinics/  

Hands/Face/Space/Fresh Air

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of continuing to follow the guidance on hands, face, space and fresh air. Meeting people outside in the open air is still the best option to stay safe this summer.