Belfast virologist says more can be done to control the spread of Covid

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Dr.. Conor Bamford

A virologist in Belfast said he expects an increase in Covid-19 cases in schools in Northern Ireland, and believes more can be done to control the spread of the disease in the classroom.

Dr Conor Bamford, of the Wellcome Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, spoke as schools reopened on Tuesday amid an increase in cases of omicron variants.

Dr Bamford told Belfast Live: “Northern Ireland is in the midst of a fourth wave of Covid with Omicron and is likely to increase in a few weeks after England, South Africa and Denmark.

“Once it slows down, it can go on for a while, as Delta did. We’re already seeing a slight increase in hospitalizations and deaths, which are set to get worse, and we’re also seeing the spread of foster care at the level of the first and second third wave that we’re talking about.”

Fortunately, the Omicron wave does not seem to cause as many serious diseases as previous waves, mainly due to the increased immunity of the population.

“As for schools, we would expect an increase in infections as children from affected families return from Christmas socialization and start relationships in a temperate, low environment with the lowest vaccination and immunity rates.”

School administrators are looking for more guidance before the new deadline as the number of Omicron cases continues to grow.

As an important easing measure ahead of the new period, the Education Department urged schools to require all staff and primary school students to take a lateral flow test 24 hours before returning to school.

“While there are tests, this probably won’t be enough,” Dr. Bamford added.

“However, there are some issues related to children that need to be considered. The first is that Northern Ireland is not monitoring infections in children and young people as often as it can.

“Second, more can be done to control the spread of disease in and around schools by reducing transmission in the community (including in adult workplaces), covering the faces of older children where possible, increasing ventilation and filtration, and of course vaccination.

Although the most vulnerable children will be vaccinated and protected, this large number of infected children can lead to serious illness in children. Everything about schools, of course, has to be taken and schools remain open. “

Earlier, Education Secretary Michelle McKelvin said her priority remains school maintenance and that no changes have been made to the instructions given to schools about the bay, because health officials have not changed their position.

He added that schools that are understaffed will have the opportunity to move to distance learning and offer a partial programme.

Ms McLaughlin told BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster on Tuesday: “It remains our highest priority and priority to me to keep our children and youth in school.

“We have worked closely with the Ministry of Health and the Public Health Agency with workers in schools and trade unions during the Covid pandemic.

“You will appreciate that there has been no change in the instructions regarding Covid, as this is very much in line with the recommendation of the Ministry of Health.

Currently we have not received anything different.

It was also revealed that there have been no meetings between administration officials and a group of educational specialists in the past six weeks.

“It is unacceptable if this is the case and I will follow up today. I understand the evidence is that we have been in direct contact with the schools,” the minister said.

Although a lot of work has been done on ventilation in recent months, McIlven also acknowledged that there are ventilation problems that, despite Covid, need to be addressed and will require a “fairly significant capital investment”. .

But SDLP Education spokesman Daniel McCrosan said Ms McIlvin’s failure showed leadership around Covid-19, putting schools in an impossible position.

West Tyrone MLA said: “There was silence from the minister over the Christmas holidays as school leaders were busy with a plan on how to deal with the rapidly developing situation of Covid-19 as Omicron spreads in our community.

“Schools are already on the verge of collapse and many have raised these issues with the minister to improve and implement the opening plan – at least nothing has been done.

“Omicron’s spread will have serious consequences for our schools. We will see teachers, staff and students forced into isolation and this will have a huge impact.”

We could have taken steps to address this problem if Secretary McKelvin had listened over and over again and done his job.

“All of our school staff, parents and students have been allowed, and I will continue to fight for the work and continue to assure the interest of our school community.”

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Source: Belfastlive

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