Essex school sends pupils home after Covid cases on first day back

Legions of pupils at one school in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, were sent home to self-isolate on their first day back at school following a number of positive Covid-19 tests.

Schools across the country reopened on Monday (March 8), as part of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

One of the measures to allow this to happen was the administration of fast Covid tests using what is known as LFD devices in schools to detect Covid-19 cases and isolate when necessary.

On the first day back at the Belfairs Academy in Leigh-on-Sea, three pupils tested positive for Covid-19.

The school initially retested these pupils, which according to Southend Borough Council’s Director of Public Health Krishna Ramkhelawon, was not to correct thing to do.

In a letter home to pupils of Belfairs Academy, he wrote: “This is not the correct clinical procedure to follow and I have only been made aware of this matter early this morning by my Testing Lead and by the Trust CEO, Mrs Williams.

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“People who are carrying the virus unknowingly can still return a negative result if their viral load is low in the body, when using LFDs.

“But it’s very unlikely that those 3 pupils would have tested positive, if they didn’t have any viral load.”

According to Public Health England, schools should treat a positive result from an LFD device as a positive Covid-19 case straight away.

Thankfully, the school followed protocol anyway, and sent those three pupils home, along with any close contacts.

It’s now thought that upwards of 50 pupils are self-isolating as a result of this outbreak, as well as the families of those pupils who did test positive.

Dr Ramkhelawon added: “It is disappointing that we have to take this urgent action and disrupt the return to school for some of the pupils.

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“However, we have to apply the correct judgement in this time of challenge which will serve to protect all of us and the safe return to education.”

Bev Williams, Principal of the Legra Academy Trust who oversee Belfairs Academy said: “We are extremely grateful to parents and students for their assistance in ensuring tests are carried out so that our students and staff can safely return to the classroom.

“We were delighted to see so many students back in the academy this week.

“Across the academy, students are focused and determined to resume ‘normal’ life at school and staff are thrilled to welcome them back.

“We must underline the importance of testing to maintain a safe environment for all staff and students and we urge all parents to continue working with us on that mission.

“In common with every school, we studiously implement all measures necessary to protect our students and staff and to keep the virus rate down.

“We will continue to do this and we must thank our parents and carers for their support and words of thanks as we take every step necessary to fight the virus.

“We are grateful to Southend’s Director of Public Health, Krishna Ramkhelawon, for writing to parents to set out the position regarding yesterday’s tests and we echo his thanks for your ongoing support.”

Essex Live