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COVID – 19 Update

Written by Denise Torrey


Please carefully read the advice from the Ministry of Education re unwell children. Note children must be symptom free for 48 hours before returning to school.

Children and young people attending school when they are unwell;

Public health advice regarding sick children and school attendance has not changed in the COVID-19 era. Children who are unwell should not attend school and they should not return to school until they have been symptom free for at least 48 hours. This applies to infectious respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, and vaccine preventable diseases. If their illness is not an infectious one, for example, it results from an injury or a chronic disease like diabetes, and they are well enough to attend school then they can do so.

COVID-19 like symptoms will be very common over the winter and the vast majority of children with those symptoms won’t have COVID-19. So, the advice to parents whose children have symptoms of cough, fever, sore throat and/or runny nose and sneezing is for them to keep their child at home until they have been symptom free for 48 hours. If they do see a GP or call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 and they are swabbed then the child will need to be isolated at home until they have their result. They can return to school if their result is negative and they have been symptom-free for 48 hours. In most situations, the rest of their household do not also need to self-isolate. That means that siblings of the ill child, regardless of where they go to school, can attend school while the test result for the ill child is awaited. The only exception is if the child being tested is a symptomatic close contact of a case. In that case, we ask that their household members do self-isolate while awaiting the test result. This exception is unlikely to occur in a school as any child (or adult) who is identified as a close contact of a case will already be in self-quarantine.

Can we require a child who has been unwell be tested for COVID-9?

We have been advised that schools like employers are not able to compel COVID-19 testing. We know from what has been documented overseas, that children with COVID-19 tend to have mild symptoms, and also not to transmit the disease very effectively (which is in contrast to many other respiratory virus infections, like flu, that they are very good at spreading).

A child or staff member has symptoms of COVID-19 however they are not prepared to be tested. When can they return to work or school?

If a child (or staff member) with symptoms of suspected Covid-19 declines to have testing done, this prolongs the length of time that they will need to remain in self-isolation and not attend school. They should obtain current advice from their General Practitioner as to the length of time required for self-isolation in this instance.