With the first school half term after lockdown already over, it has been reported that during these first 6 weeks, the number of Southampton schoolchildren with Covid-19 symptoms has been rising.
According to NHS data, there was 10 times as many cases logged in September in the NHS Southampton CCG area for under 18s, in comparison with the same period in August; the total number then being just 812. This trend has been seen not only in Southampton, but across England. Across the country, the numbers jumped from 21,000 reports of Covid-19 symptoms in school-age children in August, to 186,000 in September for the same age group.
These Southampton’s children’s symptoms were reported, in the majority (73%), via the NHS 111 website and the remaining 27% were reported via the phone line.
The number of adults in Southampton also logging their symptoms has risen between August and September too, however not to the same extent as the numbers in under-16s. In September, there were 1,375 users, who logged symptoms, in comparison to the 547 users the month before.
This rise in reporting of Covid-19 symptoms is not due to parents becoming overanxious following their children’s return to school post-lockdown, according to Saul Faust, Professor of Paediatric Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Southampton. He believes parents are requesting testing kits, in line with government guidelines. He reassures parents that “Children remain relatively unaffected by Covid“, but also understands “…that there is no choice but to test on symptoms as otherwise cases will be missed.”
This is further backed up by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who says there are very low rates in the transmission of infections between those aged under 16.
The government recommendations to schools to help reduce infections include the use of face coverings in certain areas of schools, enhanced cleaning and hand washing measures and keeping occupied areas well-ventilated. Also schools must ensure that students, staff or other visitors to the school do not enter school grounds if they have any symptoms of or have tested positive for Covid-19.
However, Professor Faust also recognises that respiratory viral symptoms in both adults and children is common every Autumn and Winter, so this rise in symptoms reported and subsequent tests required was anticipated by experts.