SSecondary school pupils and teachers in a London borough have been advised to continue wearing face masks after several cases of the Indian Covid variant have been detected.
Despite a nationwide relaxation of face covering rules in schools, Bromley’s parents have received a letter from health chiefs saying precautions should continue to be taken “until further notice”.
A total of 58 cases of the Indian strain have been detected in Bromley, making it the most affected eighth district in London, Public Health England said on Thursday. It is not known how many of the 991 cases in London were detected in schools or among schoolchildren.
The news came as chiefs demanded that the government show them data on the spread of the Indian variant in schools. School leaders said they repeatedly requested information on the prevalence of the strain B.1.617.2 variant in schools in order to be able to ensure that the right measures were put in place.
Figures show that overall school attendance in England has fallen over the past week. About 87% of public high school students were in class on May 20, up from 89% the week before. In primary schools, attendance fell to 94%, down from 95% the previous week. The figures come after the government removed the requirement for secondary school students in England to wear headgear in class.
PHE figures show that all Covid cases have increased in London in the 10-14 age group since face-to-face teaching resumed on March 8, but have declined in the 15- 19 years old.
Ealing, Hillingdon, Brent, Harrow and Hounslow schools are being targeted, along with the students’ families, as public health chiefs rush to detect cases before the start of the mid-term vacation.
Geoff Barton, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said without information on the impact of the variant strain, it was unclear whether measures to reduce the risk of transmission should be extended. “It is difficult to fight a battle in the dark,” he added.
The NAHT, which represents school leaders, advises schools not to relax security measures too early.