The rise in Covid cases across the county is having a knock-on effect on pupils, teachers and parents, Wiltshire Council's public health team has warned.

In the past few weeks, infections have been on the rise again prompting fears restrictions such as compulsory mask wearing indoors could be reintroduced.

In Wiltshire, the rise in cases is also leading to more hospitalisations with both Salisbury District Hospital and Swindon's Great Western Hospital warning they are under extraordinary pressure.

As most people go about their daily lives without worrying too much about the risurgence of the virus, the council's public health team is keen to stress rising cases are having a real impact.

Pupils, teachers and parents are among those paying the price.

'Huge numbers'

Earlier this week, public health consultant at Wiltshire Council, Rachel Kent, warned of "huge numbers" of Covid cases reported in the county's schools.

Children aged 10-19 are the most affected age group.

Asked how many pupils are currently infected, Mrs Kent couldn't give a precise figure as not all schools report numbers to the council.

Based on those who do, she said numbers were "approaching a thousand" but the actual figure is likely to be higher.

The knock-on effect

While hospital admissions are not as high as they would be thanks to the rollout of the vaccine, numbers are increasing almost on a daily basis.

"Hospitals are at that capacity you'd expect later on in the winter and we're early on at the moment," Mrs Kent said.

"Protecting the NHS is one of the big drivers for the government but from a local perspective, we've got huge numbers [of cases] in schools and that's affecting staffing and some schools are having to switch to home learning because they've got staff not just getting ill with Covid but other illnesses as well.

"The knock-on effect is impacting on the parents, we either have parents who will have to stay home from work to look after their children or parents that have got Covid and can't get into work."

What's the increase driven by?

The lifting of all restrictions is undoubtedly one of the main reasons. This is coupled with concerns over waning immunity from coronavirus vaccines.

Nationally, there are reports of a rather slow rollout of booster jabs - the third vaccine doses offered to people in priority groups 1-9 who were the first to receive jabs at the start of the year.

The uptake of the vaccine in 12 to 15-year-olds is also generally low. 

Last week's lab issues have also contributed to rising numbers.

It is thought 43,000 people in the South West received a false negative PCR result meaning they will have continued to mix with others unaware of being infected.  

All those affected have now been contacted, Mrs Kent clarified.

Is there anything we can do to stop the spread?

As ever, the advice is to keep social distancing where possible, wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces, wash or sanitise your hands regularly and come forward for your jab if you're eligible.

"If we all continue to follow the tried and tested simple effective measures, then it doesn’t need to be inevitable that Covid-19 will continue to spread at the rate it is doing," Mrs Kent said.

With half-term coming up, residents are encouraged to be "sensible and cautious" and consider their individual circumstances before deciding to meet with other families.

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