A NUMBER of primary schools in County Durham had to close early last week after positive tests and self-isolation requirements.

Three schools in Bishop Auckland, Ferryhill and Barnard Castle had to move to remote learning ahead of the term ending on July 20.

It came just days before 'Freedom Day' which saw almost all restrictions, including mandatory use of face coverings, lifted on Monday.

Meanwhile this afternoon, Government figures revealed more than one million children in England were out of school last week for Covid-19-related reasons.

Durham County Council publishes a list of temporary school closures which occur as a result of bad weather, loss of utility services and other emergencies.

The list, which is routinely updated, also shows which schools have had to temporarily close due to pupils and staff testing positive or needing to quarantine.

Listing the schools that were affected in the run-up to the start of the summer holidays, it said those listed would remain closed until the start of the new term, September 2.

Broom Cottages Primary School, Ferryhill

The school had to close on Thursday, July 15 following the closure of the majority of class bubbles due to positive Covid tests.

It said that remaining classes had been affected due to staffing levels, adding that it had moved to remote learning as a result.

Forest-of-Teesdale Primary School, Barnard Castle

The school closed on Tuesday, July 13, remaining closed until Thursday, September 2 due to staff being required to self-isolate.

St John's Chapel Primary School, Bishop Auckland

The primary school closed on Wednesday, July 7 after a positive Covid case was reported, prompting all pupils and the majority of staff to self-isolate.

'Covid risk assessments and infection measures are in place'

Gill O’Neill, Deputy Director of Public Health for County Durham, said: “Covid risk assessments and infection, prevention and control measures are in place at every school in County Durham and will continue to be so in September in accordance with current national guidance.

“As part of these measures, secondary school age pupils will be offered two lateral flow tests in school at the beginning of term and all schools have planned for additional measures to be implemented in case of a rise in infections, either across the whole school or a particular year group.

“Our public health team will also continue to provide support to schools upon their return, based on local information, national guidance and best practice.”

More than one million children in England out of school last week over Covid

More than one million children in England were out of school last week for Covid-19-related reasons, Government figures show.

Around one in seven (14.3 per cent) state school pupils did not attend class for Covid-19 related reasons on July 15, up from 11.2 percent on July 8 and 8.5percent on July 1, according to Department for Education statistics.

These include approximately 934,000 children self-isolating due to a possible contact with a Covid-19 case, 47,000 pupils with a confirmed case of coronavirus, and 34,000 with a suspected case of Covid.

A further 35,000 pupils were off as a result of school closures due to Covid-related reasons.

The latest figures come after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that the use of “bubbles” in schools and colleges in England will come to an end as the country eases lockdown restrictions.

Current rules say that children have to self-isolate for 10 days if another pupil in their bubble – which can be an entire year group at secondary school – tests positive for coronavirus.

But Mr Williamson has said it will be up to individual schools and colleges as to whether they scrap the bubble system this week ahead of the summer holidays, following the move to Step 4 of the road map.

What leaders in the North East have previously said

In the days leading up to 'Freedom Day,' council leaders in the north of the region including County Durham urged people to continue to act responsibly.

In a statement from leaders also representing Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, Northumberland, North and South Tyneside, they urged caution.

At the time, they said: “We must remember that the virus continues to spread rapidly and we all have a responsibility to carry on doing our bit to protect those around us.

“The time has come for us to learn to live safely with Covid and make sure that we continue to do everything we can to support those in our communities who still feel vulnerable.

“While cases are rising rapidly, hospital admissions are very low, as thankfully are deaths.

“However pressure on public services is building, with key workers having to self-isolate either as cases, close contacts or parents/carers of isolating children.”

The statement said increasing vaccination coverage is the most important step now.

They said: “Soon, those who have received both doses of a vaccine will no longer have to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive case of the virus.

“We know vaccines are effective in reducing our chances of becoming seriously ill, and there are signs they help reduce the rate of infection.

“Soon, they will also prevent you having to enter difficult periods of isolation in certain circumstances.

“We all have a role to play when it comes to protecting ourselves, our loved ones, and those we come into contact with.

“There will be personal choices we must all now make but good hand hygiene, meeting in well ventilated areas where possible and wearing a face covering where appropriate will not just help to protect yourself, but you also help others."

Read more: The eight North East areas with some of the HIGHEST Covid rates in the country

But just last night, concerns were raised over "sky-rocketing" infection rates as figures revealed that the North East now had the highest infections in the country.

One local authority area - Redcar & Cleveland - topped the list with the most infections per 100,000 people in England, as eight other areas follows suit.

Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North said he was concerned that infections could soar to "unmanageable heights" unless the easing of rules is treated with caution.

He said: "“Infection numbers are sky-rocketing in the North East and I worry that they will soar to unmanageable heights unless we take this next step with serious caution.

"We must all do our bit to protect ourselves and those around us as infections rise by continuing to wear masks in enclosed spaces and making sure we get both doses of the vaccine."

Meanwhile Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar, admitted that he did not describe the unlocking of restrictions as "Freedom Day."

Instead, urging further caution he said it remained "still important" to take sensible steps to limit the spread of the virus.

He said: "As of today, restrictions are lifted on most other activities as part of the gradual easing of lockdown measures that began in March.

"This means for the first time since the pandemic began, weddings and funerals can go ahead as normal, venues can operate at full capacity, and businesses like nightclubs can reopen.

"That is going to bring joy to many businesses and couples waiting to get married but while people have referred to this as 'Freedom Day' - I don’t see it like that.

"Yes we are able to do all these things again - but it’s still important to take sensible precautions to limit the spread.

"For some people, they’ll be fearful to leave the house or get on a bus, and we should all respect that, being mindful of others and taking steps to help them - like keeping our distance and wearing a mask when in crowded spaces.

"Keeping a physical distance and being outdoors remains the best way to prevent transmission.

"So as we reopen, I ask that we all consider others, and stay safe."


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