Northern Ireland news

Almost 5,000 cases of Covid-19 among staff and pupils in schools in NI last week

Almost 5,000 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed among pupils and staff in schools in NI

ALMOST 5,000 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed among staff and pupils in schools in Northern Ireland last week, according to new figures.

Statistics show 4,485 pupils and 488 school staff tested positive for the virus in the week ending January 16 - almost three times the number of cases recorded in the previous week.

Figures show that in the first full week of the new school term, the week ending January 9, there were 1,736 cases of coronavirus in cases - 1,374 pupils and 362 school staff.

A leading teaching union last night described the statistics as "startling" and said it highlighted the "immeasurable challenge that our school leaders are contending with on a daily basis".

The figures, which were released in the weekly epidemiological bulletin, reveal there there 2,781 cases in primary schools and 1,633 in post primary schools in the north during the week ending January 16.

A total of 71 positive cases were recorded in special schools.

Other figures show that over the past 28 days, there has been a total of 9,593 positive cases among staff and pupils, however, for some of that period schools were closed due to the Christmas holidays.

Graham Gault from the National Association of Head Teachers last night said he was concerned about the "huge increase in numbers".

"Much has been made of the lowered covid figures at the beginning of January," he said.

"However, NAHT reserved comment on the figures, preferring to wait to see the numbers once children had fully returned to school.

"The huge increase in numbers confirms our position; the current contact tracing arrangements and the current isolation guidance create an environment that is conducive to the spread of coronavirus.

"These figures are startling and testify to the immeasurable challenge that our school leaders are contending with on a daily basis.

"We, in NAHT, sincerely hope that the children and staff who have contracted this illness, and, indeed, their families, make swift and full recoveries.

"To the staff who work in our schools, we applaud you.

"We want you to know that you have the full support of NAHT and our sister trade unions. We have been lobbying for improved mitigations on your behalf, including air filtration and FFP2 masks.

"To our parents, we say thank you for your support and understanding, particularly when our school leaders find it impossible to maintain full in-school provision due to the impact of this virus on their staff.

"And to the minister, we say, please revisit the list of required mitigations presented to you by the NITC trade unions two weeks ago."

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