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Encouraging children's return to school and weekly Covid update

25 February 2021

Schools and academies across Norfolk are looking forward to welcoming back thousands of children and young people from Monday 8 March.

Norfolk’s 422 schools are well practised in their range of extra hygiene and safety measures to support pupils’ safe return to the classroom, including one-way systems, staggered start times, regular testing for school staff, and extra cleaning to help protect children and teachers.

And these measures have been boosted by new testing regimes for students in secondary schools and further education colleges and the ongoing national vaccination programme, which is immunising thousands of people each week – 35 per cent of people in Norfolk aged 16 and over have now received their first dose of a vaccine, equating to around 48,000 people.

Director of Learning and Inclusion at Norfolk County Council, Chris Snudden said: “I would like to encourage parents to support their children’s return to school.

“Parents and schools have made absolutely great efforts in the last two months to support online learning and I think it’s important to take a moment to reflect on this and commend what has in so many cases been an excellent partnership.

“But it is now vitally important to return to face-to-face learning and give children and young people back some kind of normality and the opportunity to learn and play with their friends.

“I know teachers are really excited to be welcoming children back and with the legal stay at home instruction still in place until at least 29 March, I’m sure many children will be really looking forward to the opportunity of getting out of the house each day which going back to school will provide.

“The return to school is a great opportunity to spend the three weeks before the Easter holidays getting back into the swing of school ready for a flying start to the summer term.

“We know the risk of the virus to children is low and schools have taken lots of measures to help protect their children and staff. I would really urge parents to make sure their children get back to school in March so they can benefit from the professional teaching and support their schools offer.”

Sarah Shirras, Co-chair of Educate Norfolk and headteacher of St William’s Primary School, said: “Families have worked incredibly hard to manage the competing pressures of remote learning, working from home and family life and not being able to see families and friends.

“Now all children can return, we will do everything to support them to thrive in school, as children and as learners.
“Re-engaging with each other and with staff and enjoying being together will be crucial in their return to learning in school. We know there will be some anxiety around this return, but it is an exciting step towards the freedoms we are all so looking forward to.”

Norfolk County Council has been providing support and advice to schools throughout the pandemic. Although schools closed to the majority of pupils at the beginning of January, they remained open for the children of key workers and those children who are vulnerable.

All pupils in all years can return to schools and colleges from Monday 8 March. Parents and carers should look out for messages from their own schools as to the specific arrangements for the return. Management teams from secondary schools and colleges will be sending out instructions around the wearing of face coverings and twice-weekly testing, initially on-site and then at home.

Schools have been provided with ongoing Public Health advice from the council, as well as materials to promote social distancing and handwashing and provide guidance for parents on Covid symptoms and when to keep your child at home and get tested.

Ms Snudden said: “Quite rightly schools and academies will be making their preparations to make their premises and operating practices as safe as possible and we’re keen that parents support those efforts by playing their part.

“Please do wear face coverings at school pick-up and drop-off, avoid car-sharing wherever possible, and adhere to the current guidelines around not mixing with other households either indoors or outside.”

School transport

Students are asked to wear face coverings on school transport and to carry and use hand sanitiser. Young people are also asked to socially distance while waiting for buses and to sit with their year groups while on transport, to minimise contacts with other students.

Emotional wellbeing

The Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership has developed a range of back to school resources to help support students and their parents or carers. The materials, under the banner It’s Ok to Not Be OK, It’s OK to be OK, focus on some of the issues young people might feel worried about when they return to school. There’s lots of information to support young people’s well-being on the Just One Norfolk website.

Covid-19 in Norfolk updates

Vaccination progress

Melanie Craig, Chief Executive, NHS Norfolk & Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “NHS staff across Norfolk & North Suffolk / Waveney continue to vaccinate at pace, in line with vaccine supply and as a result of their dedicated hard work, data up to Sunday 14 February shows that 35% of people aged 16 years and over had received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This puts us third out of the 42 health and care systems in England.

“As we turn our focus to vaccinating cohorts five and six, it is important to remind anyone over the age of 70, including health and care workers, that if you haven’t had a first dose of the vaccine and have since changed your mind, please do make an appointment via the national booking system or by calling your GP practice.

“Whether you have had a first dose or not, it is vital that everyone continues to play their part to reduce the spread of Coronavirus across Norfolk & North Suffolk / Waveney. If you have to leave home for an essential reason, please continue to follow hands, face and space.”

Vaccination update

The latest data shows that up to Sunday, 14 February:

  • 35% of our 16+ population had received a first dose of vaccine, putting us third out of the 42 health and care systems in England.
  • 48,000 local people were given their first dose of vaccine in the week to 14 February.

We are confident that we offered everyone in the top four JCVI priority groups the opportunity to have received their first dose of vaccine by 15 February, where it was safe to do so.

Our next goals are to have offered the first nine JCVI priority groups their first dose by 15 April and then all remaining adults their first dose by 31 July 2021.

Specific sites are now vaccinating cohort 5, and everyone aged 65-69 for whom we have records has received invitations from the National Booking Service over the last week.

GP led sites / Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are now focussing on providing first doses to carers and people aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions. PCNs are vaccinating these people as they have a long-standing relationship with these patients and a better understanding of their needs. Priority group 6 also includes all unpaid carers; NHS Norfolk & Waveney CCG is working with Norfolk County Council, Suffolk County Council and others to identify carers who may not be registered or known to their GP practice or council services. Further information about this will be available imminently.

So we need the public to continue to play their part too:

  • unless you are 65 or over, on the Shielded Patient List or a frontline health or social care worker, please don’t contact the NHS to seek a vaccine, the NHS will contact you when it is the right time;
  • when the NHS does contact you, please attend your booked appointments at exactly the time you’re asked to; and whether you have had your vaccine or not, please continue to follow all the guidance in place to control the virus and save lives.

You can find out more information about the COVID-19 vaccination programme on the NHS Norfolk and Waveney CCG website, including some information in other languages and in Easy Read.

Latest COVID statistics

The average number of new daily cases in the last seven days is 110.1 – compared to 145.9 for the previous seven days, representing a 24.5 per cent decrease

The verified seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people for Norfolk for the week up to 19 February is 91.4 (115.3 the previous week). The rate for the East of England is 98.1 (124.3) and for England 119.9 (143.5).

District incidence levels per 100,000 as of 19 February (and comparison to the same time the previous week) are:

  • Breckland: 112.2 (down from 151.5)
  • Broadland: 72.6 (down from 82.6)
  • Great Yarmouth: 129.9 (up from 124.8)
  • King’s Lynn and West Norfolk: 102.4 (down from 155.9)
  • North Norfolk: 55.3 (up from 51.5)
  • Norwich: 105.3 (down from 150.8)
  • South Norfolk: 62.5 (down from 71.7)

As of 24/02/21, there were 171 people in hospital, and 15 patients in critical care

Hospital activity:

  • COVID-19 occupied beds: 192 as of 23 February - a reduction of 12 compared to the previous week
  • Intensive care: 15 as of 23 February - a reduction of 12 compared to the previous week
  • Hospital deaths: 1,519 as of February, an increase of 36 compared to the previous week

Outbreaks as of 24 February (and comparison to the same time last week):

  • 125 in care settings (down 21)
  • 65 in businesses (up 3)
  • 35 in education settings (down 4)
  • 28 in health and emergency settings (down 1)

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