How to manage respiratory infections and cases of COVID-19 in special educational settings.
As we move into autumn and winter we expect to see an increase in the circulation of acute respiratory infections (ARIs).
There has been an increase in COVID-19 case rates and hospital admissions in Wales, England and Scotland in recent weeks which is potentially concerning. This increase may be driven by changes to variants circulating including the detection of a new variant - BA.2.86.
We are unlikely to have a clear indication of the severity and transmissibility of this variant for several weeks, however there are precautions we can put in place now with the aim of limiting the spread of infections and impact on the health and care system.
We are continuing to monitor the epidemiology of BA.2.86 and considering possible options for additional precautionary measures.
Current advice is set out below.
- Staff working closely with vulnerable learners, especially if they are caring for a learner on a respirator, should be fully trained in the use of face masks, face protection and other relevant PPE.
- Staff should wear facemasks when caring for vulnerable learners who have suspected COVID-19 and flu.
- You may also wish to consider the appropriate wearing of facemasks by symptomatic individuals (where tolerated) and requirements for facemasks for visitors and other areas if you have cases/outbreak at the school.
- Staff with symptoms of a respiratory tract infection including COVID-19 and/or has a high temperature are advised to stay at home and notify their employer as soon as possible.
- When they no longer feel unwell and do not have/have not had a high temperature and are ready to return to work they may wish to discuss with their employer ways to minimise any risk as some may still be infectious.
- Learners with symptoms of a respiratory tract infection should also be advised to stay at home and not to return to the setting until they no longer feel unwell / no longer have a high temperature.
- One of our key defences to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and the threat of a new variant is vaccination. The Autumn Booster Programme in Wales commenced on 11 September and it is important that those who are eligible take up their offer of a vaccination, including staff working in special schools.
- This will help prevent frontline workers becoming ill, reduce transmission to vulnerable individuals and will also protect the resilience of the health and social care system from becoming overwhelmed.
Further advice and guidance
For further advice and guidance read 'Advice for health and care staff on respiratory viruses including COVID-19: guidance' or contact your regional health protection team: