Coronavirus: Liverpool mayor considers extra half-term week

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Five hundred teaching staff and 8,000 pupils are currently self-isolating

Liverpool is considering a two-week half-term break for schools as part of its "battle with Covid-19", its mayor has said.

The city has the third highest number of infections in England.

Under the plan, backed by a teaching union, pupils would be taught remotely at home for the second week.

Mayor Joe Anderson said teachers were under "huge pressure" as almost 500 teaching staff and 8,000 pupils are currently self-isolating.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service reports that almost 900 positive cases have been reported among staff and students in Liverpool schools since September and current attendance rate is 77%.

A Liverpool City Council spokesperson said there would be "no announcement that schools are closing".

The city has 660 cases per 100,000 per population in the week up to 11 October. This is behind Nottingham, which has 892, and Knowsley with 688, according to Public Health England data.

Image source, Liverpool City Council
Image caption,
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said teachers were under "huge pressure"

Liverpool City Region has been put in the top tier of the government's new system of coronavirus restrictions.

However, Mr Anderson has claimed in a tweet that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's "deadly dithering has caused untold grief" and called on the government for a "circuit breaker" lockdown to help prevent the virus spreading.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

The Labour mayor said the "virus was out of control" in the city, with "30 deaths" in the past seven days.

"We need to take serious action, we're in a real battle with Covid-19," he said.

"I know it can cause disruption to parents but at the same time our teaching staff are under huge pressure.  

"We have got hundreds of people in the teaching profession who are isolating at the moment as well as pupils."

Mr Anderson said it was a "very anxious" time in Liverpool and the "virus had run out of control" with hospitals under huge strain, too.

He added he would consult with other council leaders across the city region over the proposal for an additional week's school holiday at half-term.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Liverpool has the third highest number of infections in England

Liverpool's Liberal Democrats are also backing the move.

Councillor Liz Makinson, the Lib Dems education spokesperson, said the infection rates in schools since September were "frightening".

"There is only one school in the city that has not had any positive cases of Covid-19. Three hundred and eighty five teachers have tested positive and 21,619 pupils have had to isolate," she said.

Damian McNulty, from the NASUWT teachers' union, said the second week was needed as a "circuit breaker" as teaching staff and pupils had been "very stressed".

The "crisis" of the test and trace system had seen schools conducting their own tracing when children were ill and sent home "on a daily basis", he said.

The city council said in a statement it would not be making any announcements about schools closing.

"We will continue to work with the DfE (Department for Education) and the Schools Commissioner on the challenges the city faces," a council spokesperson added.

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