Health chief hopeful Towcester school's Covid outbreak is contained

Four more cases confirmed from 2,000 swabs following huge testing operation

By Kevin Nicholls
Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 9:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 10:49 am

Northamptonshire's health chief is hopeful that a Covid-19 outbreak at a county school has been contained.

Six cases of a more transmissible Indian strain of the virus were identified last week, sparking a round of targeted testing at Nicholas Hawksmoor School in Towcester.

Public Health Northamptonshire director Lucy Wightman today confirmed that only four more Covid cases have been identified from around 2,000 swabs.

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Further studies are ongoing to see if any of those are so-called 'variants of concern (VOC).'

Mrs Wightman said: "We undertook testing of the whole school community between Friday and Sunday, handed out 1,800 kits for self-testing and had a mobile testing unit on site on Friday.

"No further staff members have tested positive and no more positive from initial round of pupils tested

"There are 242 test kits still out in the community and we would implore people to return those, but that does tell you we've had more than 1,500 received — and out of that only four more positives.

A mobile testing unit was despatched to Towcester following the outbreak last week

"We've yet to find out if any of those are VOCs as we are still waiting for further genomic sequencing results which will be later this week. But that does demonstrate how the school has managed to contain the outbreak."

Six cases of variants were reported last week, including the B.1.617.2 strain first identified in India earlier this year.

Health secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons yesterday (Monday) that a total of 2,323 cases of the Indian coronavirus variant had been reported in the UK.

He added that there are now 86 local authority areas where there are five or more confirmed cases of the variant.

Surge testing has been started in Bedford following a rise in cases there.

Cases of the variant have doubled in the last week in Bolton and Blackburn with 27 people in hospital in the two areas.

Mr Hancock said: "The majority of those are eligible for a vaccine but haven't yet had a vaccine.

"This reinforces the message that people should come forward and get vaccinated because that is the best way to protect everybody."

Those aged 36 and 37 years old can book a jab via the NHS website, local GPs and pharmacies or the national booking line 119.