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22nd October 2021, 17:52

Director of Public Health does not think there are large COVID-19 outbreaks in schools

The Director of Public Health does not think there are large COVID-19 outbreaks in schools where there has been transmission of the virus within the school setting. Dr Helen Carter told us there are currently only a small number of cases where there is strong evidence that transmission likely occurred within the school setting.

Most of the cases in school-aged children are from different year groups and across a range of schools. The evidence suggests that transmission of the virus in these age groups is occurring outside the school setting: at parties and extra-curricular sporting events. And also as a result of the school age cases related to the community outbreak we reported on earlier this month.

Public Health Gibraltar and the Contact Tracing Bureau are working with the Department for Education and the schools to identify close contacts. Since the beginning of September there has been the need only for one outbreak control meeting regarding one educational setting.

The schools’ vaccination program for 12-15 year olds started this week, meaning the children who have been recorded in the official statistics so far would have contracted the virus and been in the incubation period before being offered the vaccine. After anyone has tested positive, there is a minimum window of 4 weeks before they can be offered a COVID-19 jab.

The Director of Public Health says an increase in cases was anticipated after the change in self-isolation policy on the 30th of September and it is not a cause for concern at this time. Dr Helen Carter said increased testing ahead of the mid-term break may also be a factor in the rise in cases amongst these age groups.

In any case, she has reminded us that the cases of COVID in children still tend to be mild. Dr Carter says there has been a strong uptake of the offer of vaccination for 12-15 year olds.

Public health advice is still that anyone who experiences symptoms, however mild, should call 111 immediately to arrange a test and avoid mixing with others until they receive the results.