3,000 Northumberland school children isolating and outbreaks in care homes - health chiefs unpick latest case figures

Thousands of children in Northumberland are isolating due to covid cases in schools, and a number county care homes have been hit by outbreaks.

By Ben O'Connell
Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 3:37 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 3:42 pm
Picture c/o Pixabay
Picture c/o Pixabay

An update on cases in Northumberland also heard the technical glitch that saw nearly 16,000 English Covid-19 cases go unreported affected the county by a total of 207 extra cases.

Northumberland’s director of public health, Liz Morgan, told councillors that this contributed to a week with the highest total of positive tests so far – with 522 cases in the past seven days.

There were more than 60 positive tests of school children in the last week, largely in schools in the central and south-east areas in the county, and mostly single cases.

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It means there are around 3,000 Northumberland pupils at home self-isolating at present, Ms Morgan revealed, adding: “That’s having a significant impact on schools not only in terms of disruption of education, but also the amount of pressure put on head teachers to continue to keep those schools open.”

The health chief reported the age groups affected remained consistent – with around 40% of cases in 18 to 30-year-olds, another 40% of cases in 30 to 64-year-olds, and between 8% and 13% in both children and older people.

The geographical spread is largely similar to recent weeks with the majority in south-east Northumberland, with some expansion both up the coast and along the A69 corridor as well as a smattering of cases in rural areas.

“We have had a handful of outbreaks in care homes in the past week,” said Ms Morgan. “One of them is quite significant, affecting a reasonable proportion of staff and patients, and we’re managing those.”

Providing an update to the Tuesday, October 6, meeting of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee, she said: “Rather than cases dropping, the best we can say is that the rate of increase is not quite as great as it was.

“The number of cases and the extent of community transmission is still very concerning.”

In line with the national picture, hospital admissions have been increasing locally, increasing by a third between Sunday, September 27, and Sunday, October 4.

Ms Morgan warned of pressure on the NHS not just because of more cases and admissions, but the numbers of staff who will be off work due to their own positive cases, contact tracing or childcare issues.

Recent proactive efforts by the council included Northumberland Communities Together holding a pop-up event at Manor Walks shopping centre, in Cramlington, where staff spoke to more than 400 people to provide advice as well as identifying residents who may need support. There are now plans to hold these in other towns.

The meeting also heard that the council’s public protection team had been out, mainly in Ashington, to talk to businesses about the additional restrictions currently in place in the North East, with these visits ‘being overall met very positively’ as owners could seek advice about their individual circumstances.

Ms Morgan noted that the additional restrictions were due to be supported by extra cash, some of which has come through, ‘but we are still working with the Government to pursue the rest of the ask that we made’.

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