On Monday (8 March), a total of 95 per cent of primary school pupils returned and 70 per cent of secondary school pupils across the city – secondary pupils are being phased back in this week to allow for lateral flow testing before they re-enter the classroom.
With measures in place similar to when schools reopened last year and the introduction of twice-weekly testing, the response from schools on the first day of reopening was positive.
Twice-weekly testing using rapid lateral flow tests has been extended to households of school children, members of support bubbles, and people in childcare and related occupations, via assisted testing at community test sites, Community Collect or Direct to Home testing arrangements. The city council is urging people to take up this offer.
Parents and guardians are reminded if they are dropping off or collecting pupils from school, to remember to socially distance around others, wear a face covering if inside and try not to car share with others outside their household. Council covid stewards visited a number of schools at drop-off and pick-up times on Monday and Tuesday, to work with parents and help to advise on ensuring distancing can be maintained.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “Like many parents, we’ve been planning for the return to school and I want to thank the tremendous work of schools right across the city in ensuring so many children can get back to the classroom.
“Going back to school is one of the first phases of the easing of lockdown, please still remember hands, face, space when you are out and about and get tested weekly.
Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult social care, health integration and wellbeing, said: “Currently 70 per cent of families have given consent for their children to be tested, and there is more work to continue to be done on this.
“Tests are quick and easy and will help us eliminate the spread of the virus in schools. If parents have concerns about the testing process they should speak to their school to find out more.”
Meanwhile, the coronavirus vaccination programme is continuing to accelerate, with over 95.4 per cent of people aged over 65 in the city receiving the first dose vaccination. Anyone aged 55 and over who has not been contacted to receive their vaccine can now book an appointment with their GP, by calling 119 or by visiting the NHS website.
From this week, vaccinations for vulnerable homeless people have been taking place. These vaccinations are being delivered by the GP Federation and supported by the city council and Clinical Commissioning Group.
Council leader Abi Brown continued: “We’ve been working with homeless service providers to collate names and health information to enable vaccinations to be given. So far since Monday, 65 homeless people have been vaccinated, and this programme will continue across the coming weeks.
“Our work in supporting homeless people and rough sleepers is making a real difference to hundreds of people. Between April 2020 and January 2021, 323 people have been supported out of sleeping rough to move on with their lives off the streets. This compares to 250 people for the same period the year before. In January 2021, 17 people were sleeping rough in the city, compared to 31 the year before – and we are working with all 17 of those people. We want to eradicate rough sleeping in the city, and protecting those vulnerable people who find themselves in this position from the coronavirus is a priority.”
As part of the city council’s continued commitment to supporting homeless people throughout the pandemic, a range of support is being given.
For the latest information on council services and support during the coronavirus, and frequently asked questions, please visit www.stoke.gov.uk/coronavirus. For latest health advice on the coronavirus, please visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus, and for further information on the virus visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
All residents are reminded about the critical importance of regular handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated. If residents have symptoms, please get tested. All residents must continue to follow the guidance of wash hands, cover face and make space.
For more information on digital services, visit www.stoke.gov.uk, download the MyStoke App, or follow the city council’s social media channels.