Principal’s Message: Feedback from Public Health England
Instructions that schools follow…
You will be aware that I have written to you in recent weeks informing you when we had positive cases of Coronavirus. I thought it would be useful to share with you the guidance that Public Health England (PHE) give to schools when we call to report a positive case.
They first thing they say is that the person must self isolate for 10 days. The starting point of that isolation period depends on two things. If the person is displaying symptoms, then day 1 of isolation should be counted from the first day that those symptoms were displayed.
If the person is not displaying symptoms but still tests positive, then he/she must isolate for 10 days counting the day of the test, as the first day of isolation.
Who are contacts..?
PHE will advise schools on how to identify ‘contacts’ of the person who has tested positive. To this end, they have a set of criteria. A contact is:
- people who spend significant time in the same household as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19
- sexual partners
- a person who has had face-to-face contact (within one metre), with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, including:
- being coughed on
- having a face-to-face conversation within one metre
- having skin-to-skin physical contact, or
- contact within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
- a person who has been within 2 metres of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes
- a person who has travelled in a small vehicle with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or in a large vehicle or plane near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
Where an interaction between 2 people has taken place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen, this would not be considered sufficient contact, provided that there has been no other contact such as any of those indicated above.
The advice is arguably not common knowledge amongst the public and certainly something that we have learned in our recent conversations with Public Health England.
A person who has tested positive for Covid-19 and has been isolating for 10 days can end that period of isolation if he/she does not have a temperature of 37.8 degrees or more. If a person does have a temperature at or above this threshold, he/she must continue isolating.
This means that it is acceptable for a person to stop isolating if he/she has a cough and/or a continued loss of sense of smell and/or taste. The reason for these two exemptions, is because it can take a number of weeks for these symptoms to clear and isolation for that period of time is not necessary.
But there is no rhyme nor reason…
Finally, some people have commented on how we have not had any cases on a large scale amongst pupils given the fact that we are a school of over 600 people that is fully open during a pandemic.
Aside from admirable cooperation of our girls with the safety steps that we have put in place, we cannot control people’s behaviour outside of school. The lack of prevalence of Covid-19 in our school, is simply good fortune. The ‘cases’ that we have had, have actually been at a time when those who contracted the virus where away from our school environment or it was transmitted in another context.
I want to reassure you that we will continue to be as vigilant as possible and put safety at the forefront of our daily work. Our hybrid classrooms register is an example of this. If pupils and/or parents report symptoms, we immediately initiate a 10-day isolation period. We have an average of 10-15 pupils each day on our hybrid classrooms register and at the time of writing, thankfully no pupils have reported a positive case of the virus but we know this can change at any time.
Jon Gargan, Principal