'Some increase' in Covid cases expected in Essex

School Covid test

Regular testing is one way to stave off a high number of Covid-19 hospitalisations, Dr Mike Gogarty said - Credit: PA

There will be "some increase" in Covid-19 cases throughout the county as children return to school, Essex's public health director has said.

Dr Mike Gogarty has urged pupils and parents to test regularly for coronavirus to stave off high rates of serious illness.

But Dr Gogarty believes that, with double vaccinations and widespread testing in place, returning to school in Essex is "safe" and far fewer people will be hospitalised from Covid-19 than in previous virus outbreaks.

The UK's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) urged government ministers to prepare for a "high prevalence" of the virus over the coming weeks nearly a month ago, on August 11.

A jumble of medical paraphernalia including boxes and throat swab packets.

Covid-19 self-testing kits - Credit: Archant

Dr Gogarty said: "It is safe for pupils to return to school and important that they get a full uninterrupted education.

"Regular testing of secondary students is important to identify possible cases but exclusion of bubbles of close contacts is not needed.

"It is likely when schools return we might see some increase in cases.

"As long as those who are potentially vulnerable are vaccinated and regularly tested we should not see the very high rates of serious illness we saw last year."

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Dr Gogarty said Covid-19 rates in Essex are currently "stable".

Latest data shows that on September 3, two people in Essex died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.

There were 241.8 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in Essex on the same date, lower than the rolling rate for the East of England.

The total number of people in Essex to receive two doses of the vaccine is 981,972 - which represents 75.4% of Essex's population aged 16 or over.

There is growing concern that going back to school could compromise this stability after rates of Covid-19 in Scotland surged, where pupils returned to school in mid-August.

The Scottish Government said it was too early to draw conclusions.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that parents mixing at school gates, for example, could be behind the spread of Covid-19 in the community in a speech on Wednesday, September 1.