School staff and pupils in Essex tested for Omicron Covid variant | Coronavirus


Pupils and staff at a primary school in Brentwood are being tested for the Omicron Covid-19 variant amid a widening outbreak in the Essex town linked to cases in Nottingham and travel to southern Africa.

Essex county council contact tracers established the link to Larchwood Primary school after identifying cases of the “variant of concern” on Sunday in the nearby Trinity Church and a branch of the KFC fried chicken restaurant on Brentwood High Street. One class is undergoing remote learning.

As secondary school pupils across England were required to again wear masks in corridors and six new cases were found in Scotland, the Essex director of public health, Dr Michael Gogarty, told BBC Breakfast: “What we’re doing is we’re throwing the net very wide in terms of requesting people who attended these places at the particular times to get tested as soon as possible.

“Within the school we are actually excluding one school group as close contacts, but with the rest of the school group we would wish them to get tested and we are arranging for that testing to happen. Some sought it yesterday, and the rest will happen today.”

The council and the school issued a joint statement recognising the steps were “unsettling” for parents, pupils and the school community, but stressed it was a precautionary measure.

Testing vans were deployed on Sunday to the branch of KFC to drop off test kits to staff. Staff, customers and delivery workers who visited the branch on Friday between 1pm and 5pm, and members of the Trinity Church congregation on Sunday, were asked to take a PCR test immediately, council health chiefs said.

They were being told to attend drive-though testing units positioned in Basildon Cherrydown car park, which requires booking through the national test and trace system, and the Brentwood Centre, where no booking is required.

The cases in Scotland include four cases in Lanarkshire and two in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area. None have any travel history, suggesting community transmission, said Scotland’s deputy first minister, John Swinney.

In Nottingham, the city and county directors of public health, Lucy Hubber and Jonathan Gribbin, said: “The UK Health and Security Agency are leading the ongoing investigation into the confirmed Omicron variant case in Nottingham and we are working closely with them to ensure that all appropriate actions to identify close contacts and arrange testing are completed.”

The cases are being traced while arrivals from abroad are still allowed to enter the UK without a PCR test. Passengers arriving in the UK from 4am on Tuesday will be required to take a PCR test by the end of their second day from entry and isolate until they receive a negative test. Ten southern African nations have been added to the red travel list.

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