Testing concerns raised as Reading kids return to school

A lack of access to coronavirus testing in Reading is causing concern among public health experts as thousands of children return to school.

Dr Kate Reynolds, director of education at Brighter Futures for Children in Reading, said these concerns have been raised with the Department for Education.

She also said around 85 per cent of Reading’s primary school pupils have returned to school this week and thousands of secondary school children will be back in classrooms next week.

NHS Test and Trace in England has admitted it was struggling to keep up with demand and labs are “maxed out”, as 170,00 tests are being processed each day.

The booking website is currently prioritising high-risk areas for testing, so there are restricted numbers of home testing kits and slots at local testing centres for people in some low-risk areas, such as Reading.

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At a meeting of Reading Borough Council’s Covid-19 Outbreak Engagement Board on September 4, Dr Reynolds said: “At the moment, we are concerned about the access to testing across Reading and we have put that to the Department for Education, so we’re saying that loud and clear.”

She added: “On September 2, our attendance figure for primary schools was running at 85 per cent. The national figure is 87 per cent, so we’re very close.

“We have one school where 98 per cent of pupils were attending on the first day of term.

“Where children aren’t attending, it tends to be that the family have come back from somewhere and they now have to get through 14 days quarantine.”

She also said each school has carried out a thorough risk assesment and been advised on how to respond to an outbreak of Covid-19.

During the pandemic, 868 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Reading and, according to the office for National Statistics, 166 people have lost their lives to the virus in the town.

The figures show 85 of those deaths occurred in hospitals and 65 died in care homes.

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On August 30, Reading’s seven-day infection rate reached 12.9 cases per 100,000 people, as another 21 confirmed cases were recorded.

That was slightly above the national average (12.7), but it is not an area of concern and no significant outbreaks or clusters have been reported in recent weeks.

David Munday, public health consultant, said: “Over a seven-day period, we’re seeing somewhere between 12 and 18 positive cases in Reading.

“That’s an average of about two a day, sometimes it’s slightly more than that, sometimes it’s slightly less.”

He added: “Since the end of May we have seen a significant decrease in the number of Covid deaths, I’m pleased to say.”

Cllr Graeme Hoskin said: “In Reading, we have a relatively well performing test and trace programme that consistently reaches, or is extremely close to the 80% completion target.”

That means that 80 per cent of the people wo come in close contact with those who test positive for Covid-19 are contacted and alerted.

The meeting also heard that if an outbreak occurs in Reading then alert messages will be sent out, before specialist testing facilities are set up and exhaustive contract tracing is carried out.

Further measures can then be taken to shut down premises and prevent people from gathering or visiting each other’s homes.

Reading Chronicle