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Rise in coronavirus cases 'expected' after school return, says council and Kent Association of Headteachers

Analysis of Covid data by KentOnline shows while cases have crept up since the mass return of schools figure are still lower than they were before children went back.

The "expected" increase stood at 16% week-on-week as of March 25, with cases climbing in nine parts of the county compared to in seven the week before.

The rate of cases per 100,000 people is now 35.9 across the county, after 668 infections were detected in the seven days to March 25.

While that was up by almost 100 on the previous week's figure it was still less than the 688 cases detected in the week ending March 6, before schools reopened.

Thanet has the highest infection rate at 57.1 with 81 cases, while Swale saw the most significant increase in the last week with cases rising by 53.7% bringing them up to 83 with an infection rate of 55.3.

The only areas which did not see an increase in the last week were Ashford, Dover, Gravesham and Sevenoaks.

Sevenoaks has the lowest infection rate at 15.7 with just 19 cases as well as the steepest drop in cases in the last week of 40.6%.

Source: Public Health England
Source: Public Health England

The rises across the county are only slight compared to levels seen in previous months and are also not reflected in deaths and hospital admissions.

Weekly deaths have dropped from 24 on March 19 to 10 on March 25. This is a significant drop from the 55 deaths recorded on March 1.

Only 8 people were admitted to hospital on March 21 - much lower than the 31 admitted on March 1 or 163 on January 1.

It has been just over three weeks since schools reopened on March 8, so many blaming the rise in cases on schools reopening.

However, so far only two schools have been reported sending children home after positive test results - including Wilmington Academy in Dartford and St George's Church of England Primary School in Minster.


Students are now required to take two home tests a week. If one comes back positive, then the student must take a PCR test to double check the result - after which their class bubble would need to isolate at home for 10 days.

Alan Brookes, chair of the Kent Association of Headteachers, said: "Quite clearly, if you are putting hundreds-and-thousands of young people together in small spaces - there will be an impact.

"There appears to be, from national statistics, some sort of rise in the 5-19 age bracket, which would tend to reflect what has been anticipated. So of course it's not 100% safe but schools are doing everything they can to mitigate the risks.

"We are in a position where we hope we can maintain full openings through the course of the summer. That's obviously what we want but whether we can or not will depend on the figures we get over the next two weeks."

Restrictions were lifted again on Monday to allow for meetings of groups of six people or two households out in the open air. If cases remain low, restrictions will be eased again on April 12.

Alan Brookes speaks about the return to school

Kent County Council have urged people across the county to stay safe over the next few weeks as restrictions are reviewed - asking all to remember the trusty 'hand, face, space.'

Andrew Scott-Clark, KCC Director of Public Health, said: “We have seen an increase in cases across Kent following the return to school, as COVID-19 continues to circulate, but we expected this as there are now regular testing programmes in schools and workplaces – plus at Kent’s symptom-free test sites – and this means these cases are being identified early and people are able to self-isolate rather than unknowingly continuing to spread the virus.

"We continue to see household clusters with small increases influencing local rates significantly.

“The key step is that people don’t ignore the incredibly important rules of hands-face-space over the Easter weekend and school holidays.

"The rule of six (or two households) being able to meet outdoors, means everyone should continue to limit their social interactions and this is vital along with regular testing to make sure we aren’t seeing widespread outbreaks."

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