Message from Julia Burrows, Director of Public Health, Barnsley – 4 September 2020

I was pleased to see that the daily rate of new cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Barnsley) has decreased in the latter part of August. The latest seven-day rate of cases per 100,000 people in Barnsley is 7.75 in week 34 (data collected between 17 August and 23 August) -  down from nearly 22.02 reported the previous week. 

Barnsley is not on the national watch list for areas of concern and Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to be closely monitored and managed locally.

However, the risk from this virus is still very real, and it is important that we all continue to adhere to the guidance to reduce transmission locally.

Getting a test

We’re seeing some testing capacity issues at a national level, which may impact on our local offer.

The NHS is scaling up its Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day nationally by the end of October. It’s also expanding the network of testing sites and labs and investing in new testing technologies.

While this scaling up is happening, the service is currently very busy and we ask only those people with symptoms to book a test. 

Now that we are experiencing lower numbers of infections in the borough and the rate of positive tests per numbers of tests is remaining stable at around one percent, this means there is less benefit in testing people who do not have symptoms, and it is really important we use the testing capacity available where it will be most effective. 

We are being assured by national colleagues that the current constraints in testing capacity are being urgently addressed.  

In the meantime, I want to reassure you that if we see any sign of local outbreaks, we will make sure tests are made available to the relevant setting.

New slots are added every evening (for the next day) and every morning (for the afternoon and evening) and capacity is constantly being recalculated.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and can’t get an appointment for a test close to your home or at a convenient time in the first instance, then please keep trying, as new slots become available during different times of the day.

Precautions in schools 

Children started a new school year this week, following a lot of hard work to make sure that their return was a safe one.

In line with government guidance, if a suspected case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) occurs in any school, the pupil or staff member will be asked to self-isolate and get tested while the school continues working as normal with its existing protective measures in place.

If a case is confirmed, Public Health England will work with the school to take appropriate measures, including asking all members of a pupil’s bubble to isolate for 14 days and access remote education while other pupils continue attending school.

Sadly, there has been some disinformation around Coronavirus (COVID-19) and schools returning circulating on social media, incorrectly suggesting that under the Coronavirus Act, school children displaying symptoms can be taken and detained by the state in a government testing centre and held for 14 days, plus tested without parental consent.

I can understand how this information could be very alarming to any parent or carer but can reassure you that the Coronavirus Act is very clear that we can only screen or assess a child for Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the presence of their carer, parent or guardian.

For most people, children and parents will be asked to isolate at home as a family for 14 days if required. If, for any reason, this isn’t possible, alternative arrangements will always be discussed with the parents or guardians.

If your child displays symptoms it is very important that they get a test and that they do not go to school or nursery so that they don’t make any other children unwell. If they become unwell at school, you will be contacted, asked to remove them from school and advised to take them for a test.

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