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Huge Covid outbreak shuts Dundee school as 17 staff test positive

Seventeen staff and two pupils have tested positive for coronavirus at a school in Dundee just two weeks after schools in Scotland reopened following lockdown. 

All staff and children at Kingspark School in Dundee, which reopened along with other schools in Scotland on August 12, have been told to self-isolate for two weeks. 

NHS Tayside confirmed positive cases among three ‘community contacts’ linked to the cluster at the school, which has about 185 pupils aged between five and 18. It has now been closed until at least next week in order to undergo a deep clean. 

All pupils at the school, which was purpose built in 2009, have additional support needs – with many also having additional physical disabilities or medical problems.

Kingspark School was closed last Wednesday and all parents received a joint letter from the local council and NHS at the end of last week to keep them updated. 

The outbreak in Dundee came as Boris Johnson, back in Downing Street after his holiday in Scotland last week, issued a plea to parents to send their children back to the classroom when schools reopen in England at the start of September. 

The Prime Minister said in a video posted on his Twitter account that he knew some parents were ‘still a bit worried’ about sending children back to school but he insisted it is ‘vital’ for pupil’s physical and mental health. 

He said the risk of children catching the disease is ‘very, very, very small’ and the risk of them suffering badly from it is ‘very, very, very, very, very small indeed’. 

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries claimed pupils are more likely to be hit by a bus on their way to school than catch coronavirus in the classroom.

She said the risk of children being involved in a traffic accident or of catching the flu are ‘probably higher than the current risk’ posed by the deadly virus.  

It came as:  

Health officials confirmed a single positive case has also been linked to the primary 2A class at St Peter and Paul’s School in Dundee. 

Parents and grandparents of children who attend St Peter and Paul’s were notified of the case by letter today.

They fear more cases or a similar outbreak as the one that forced Kingspark to close.

Becky Sampson, 34, has a daughter in P4 at the school and said she was ‘shocked’ to hear about about the Covid-19 case.

Ms Sampson, a mum-of-two who works as a nurse, said: ‘I just heard this morning. I was shocked when I heard it was linked to the school.

‘I don’t think the school should be closed for one person but it is scary as well, I see it all at work. I work at a GP surgery so I know all about it. 

‘The school’s just telling people to keep up hand-washing and use hand sanitiser.’

Ian Heggie, 67, has a granddaughter who is in P2 class at the school, and has mixed feelings about his grandchild going to the school.

The retired taxi driver said: ‘She’s needing an education and hopefully the education department have got the classroom fitted in such a way that she’s protected.

‘I’m quite comfortable but if there’s anymore cases I’d hope her parents would take her out.

‘But if everybody behaves themselves there shouldn’t be anymore cases.’ 

One parent of a child at the school said she felt happy with the level of hygiene at the primary, despite the recent positive Covid case.

The mum, who wished to remain anonymous, has a daughter in P4.

‘I’ve got every confidence in the school, they’re doing a good job,’ she said.’ There’s a person out in the playground every hour cleaning and wiping things down.

‘Right now I feel happy to send my daughter to school but we’ll just need to see incase things change.

‘She’s got a hand sanitiser and washes her hands regularly so they can only do as much as they can.’ 

A positive case has also been linked to Happy Times out-of-school club at Downfield Primary School in the same city.

The NHS also confirmed that a child attending the nursery at Newburgh Primary School was now isolating at home with other household members. 

One concerned mother said news about a case at one of the nurseries in Dundee was ‘every parent’s worst nightmare’.

She added: ‘It’s a very worrying development and there’s a great level of concern as you’d expect from parents with children at the nursery.

‘I have been advised that my child is to isolate for 14 days from the first day they came into contact with the confirmed case, however older siblings will still be required to attend the primary school.

‘There’s a lot of confusion and anxiety among parents I’ve spoken to about the situation but we’ll follow the advice we’ve been given.’

Dr Ellie Hothersall, consultant in public health medicine with NHS Tayside, said: ‘Since the identification of positive cases at Kingspark, a detailed contact tracing programme has been under way and these linked cases are being identified because of those concerted efforts of Test and Protect.

‘We must do everything we can to protect all of our communities against Covid-19 and that is why we have issued the guidance to self-isolate.

‘By taking this action we are containing any further spread of infection.we know this may cause anxiety to some parents and children but we must do everything we can to ensure we keep people safe.’

Elsewhere, a member of staff and two pupils at High Blantyre Primary School in South Lanarkshire have tested positive for Covid-19.

NHS Lanarkshire said adults and children connected to primary three or primary four had been asked not to attend class.

They will be offered testing on Wednesday and asked to self-isolate until they receive confirmation of a negative result.

Dr Josephine Pravinkumar, consultant in public health medicine, said: ‘We are aware that there will be concern among both children and their parents at this time.

‘We would like to reassure the local community that appropriate measures are being implemented.

‘Individuals should stay off school or work and get tested if they or their close contacts experience any Covid-19 symptoms, such as a cough, fever or loss of taste or smell, even if they are mild.’

Shelagh Mclean, Fife Council’s head of education and children’s services, said: ‘We are following public health advice and talking with our colleagues in NHS Fife about actions required regarding Covid-19.

‘With their direction, we are taking all appropriate actions, including that relating to Test and Protect and contact with any confirmed case linked to one of our schools.

‘A joint letter, from us and the NHS, was issued to all parents and carers in Fife at the end of last week to keep them informed.

‘We’ve also issued a comprehensive list of questions and answers to help with any questions that they may have, and reminded them of their responsibilities around quarantining at uk/schoolcovidfaqs’

Meanwhile, restrictions have been placed on care homes across Tayside as authorities try to stem the spread of a coronavirus outbreak.

Indoor visits to the premises are due to restart across Scotland today, if deemed safe to do so.

However, the Tayside Incident Management Team (IMT) said this was not possible given the ongoing management of the cluster associated with the 2 Sisters factory, as well as other localised cases in the area.

Dr Emma Fletcher, associate director of public health for NHS Tayside, said: ‘The NHS Tayside Health Protection Team and colleagues in the three Health and Social Care Partnerships in Angus, Dundee and Perth and Kinross, together with other partner agencies, determined that the reintroduction of indoor visiting should not go ahead in Tayside at this time due to the ongoing situation at the factory and a number of other clusters and positive cases.  

‘We know that this will cause a level of anxiety and disappointment amongst care home residents and their loved ones, however we must ensure that we do everything we can to protect care home residents, staff and their families as we continue to address the challenges that Covid-19 presents.’

There have been 110 positive cases linked to the factory cluster, including 96 workers and 14 community contacts.

All staff and their households, including children, have been ordered to self-isolate until August 31. That measure is in force even if they have a negative result.

Dr Fletcher added: ‘The increase in positive cases linked to the factory again today is in line with what we expected and we continue to undertake detailed contact tracing of all cases to ensure everyone fully understands what action they must take.

‘Over the last week in Tayside as a whole, more than 2,500 tests have been taken at the testing sites across the area, including the two dedicated facilities in Coupar Angus and Dundee brought in specifically to support testing of 2 Sisters factory workers.

‘Hundreds of workers have attended for testing and given the volume of testing which has now been completed, we expect positive cases to continue to rise in the coming days as tests are processed and we receive the results.’ 

Mr Johnson today pleaded with parents to send their children back to the classroom in England as he took charge of the drive to get all schools to reopen.

The Prime Minister warned that pupils risk permanent damage to their future life chances if they continue to stay away.

Mr Johnson, who has returned to No10 following his summer break, is in a race against the clock to get schools ready and persuade parents they are safe in time for the start of the new term. 

In a video posted on his Twitter account this morning, he said it is ‘absolutely vital’ that classes restart full time across England next week. 

‘It is vital for their education, it is vital for their welfare, it is vital for their physical and indeed their mental wellbeing, so let’s make sure all pupils get back to school at the beginning of September,’ he said. 

‘I think parents are genuinely still a bit worried about their children contracting coronavirus. 

‘All I can say is the risks are very, very, very small that they will even get it but then the risks that they will suffer from it badly are very, very, very, very, very small indeed.’ 

The PM had said in a statement issued overnight that there is a ‘moral duty to reopen schools to all pupils safely’.

‘We have always been guided by our scientific and medical experts, and we now know far more about coronavirus than we did earlier this year,’ he said. 

‘As the Chief Medical Officer has said, the risk of contracting Covid-19 in school is very small and it is far more damaging for a child’s development and their health and well-being to be away from school any longer.

‘This is why it’s vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends. Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school.’  

The Government faces a big test to deliver on its promise to get all children full-time back following its shambolic handling of A-level and GCSE results. 

Many pupils in England have not been to class since March, when schools were closed except to vulnerable children and those of key workers.

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