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Covid-19: Herts director of public health urges parents of county's schoolchildren to take coronavirus tests

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Parents of schoolchildren across Hertfordshire are being encouraged to test themselves for coronavirus twice a week.

The advice comes from the county council's director of public health as most students return to classrooms for the resumption of face-to-face learning for the first time since January.

In a letter to parents and carers, Professor Jim McManus said: "We understand that the past few months of remote learning has been very challenging, and we thank you for the way you have adapted to support home learning.

Hertfordshire's director of public health Professor Jim McManus
Hertfordshire's director of public health Professor Jim McManus

"We also recognise the hard work and dedication of all schools who have continued to provide face-to-face learning for children considered vulnerable and those of critical workers.

"Our work to provide infection control advice and guidance, and a dedicated helpdesk for teachers with a team of experienced staff, continues."

Prof McManus said that the biggest challenge for schools was the introduction of rapid lateral flow testing for staff at primary and secondary schools alongside the screening of students at secondaries. The students are being tested for the virus three times on campus before twice-weekly lateral flow testing at home.

Ready to test pupils at the Bishop's Stortford High School (45027885)
Ready to test pupils at the Bishop's Stortford High School (45027885)

He urged parents to ensure they have given consent for their children to take part in the programme and said: "You have also been asked, as parents and carers of children still in education, to take twice-weekly lateral flow tests.

"This process should help to identify cases and outbreaks more quickly and effectively than before. Doing this will help us to work together to reduce the spread of the virus in the community and protect people who are vulnerable."

The tests can be picked up at six sites across the county as well as ordered online.

Prof McManus reminded families that all secondary school children must also wear masks, unless exempt, including in classrooms where social distancing is not possible.

He asked parents to support efforts to curb coronavirus by wearing a mask and leaving immediately after they drop off or pick up their children. The county council, which is the education authority for Hertfordshire, has sent marshals to some school gates to enforce social distancing.

He added that playdates, sleepovers or parties should not be arranged – even if children are part of a school bubble.

Bubbles only exist in school alongside stringent infection control measures. Outside of school, the latest Government guidance still applies, and he warned that older children should not be allowed to "hang out" with their friends.

He said: "We know kids will find it hard to understand why they can't spend time with their friends from their school bubble outside of school. Please explain if we all follow the guidance now, we will hopefully be able to spend time together soon."

Rapid lateral flow tests can be picked up from:

  • County Hall car park, Hertford – 1pm-8pm weekdays (1pm-7pm Saturdays and Sundays)
  • Primett Road South car park, Stevenage – 1pm-8pm Tuesdays to Saturdays (1pm-7pm Sundays and Mondays)
  • University of Hertfordshire, De Havilland campus car park, Hatfield – 1pm-8pm daily (1pm-7pm Sundays)
  • Westminster Lodge car park, St Albans – 1pm-8pm weekdays (1pm-7pm Saturdays and Sundays)
  • King George V Park, Chaffinch Lane, Watford – 1pm-8pm daily
  • Borehamwood Civic Centre car park – 1pm-8pm daily (1pm-7pm Sundays).

For more information and to order online, see https://www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests.

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