More than 200 schools in Wales affected by coronavirus, education minister says

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More than 200 schools in Wales are currently affected by coronavirus, the education minister has said.

Schools across Wales reopened for the new term at the beginning of September and have had to implement changes to ensure pupils are kept safe. Many stripped back classrooms and installed hand sanitising stations around buildings.

Face coverings also have to be worn by children over the age of 11 in indoor settings where social distancing cannot be maintained, including schools and school transport.

But, there have been hundreds of cases of Covid within the first month of schools returning, Kirsty Williams confirmed.

In an interview with ITV Wales for Wales This Week, Kirsty Williams said there are approximately 300 cases across 210 schools which is "split between adults and children".

"The majority of schools have a single case and as you would imagine, the areas where we are seeing high levels of community transmission, those are the areas that have had the most impact on education", she said.

Face coverings must be worn in schools where social distancing cannot be maintained Credit: PA

It comes as six local authority areas, Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr, Newport, Rhondda Cynon Taf were put under stricter Covid restrictions following evidence of community transmission.

That means more than 840,000 people are living under local lockdown, but schools remain open.

When asked if schools should close, Ms Williams responded "not at all".

"You'll be aware although we are seeing a resurgence of the virus in parts of south east Wales, and undoubtedly cases are beginning to rise in parts of north Wales, it's really important we take local circumstances into consideration.

"But it is a priority for this government to maintain education, because we know the impact on children's prospects.

"We need to make sure schools are as Covid-secure as they can be - and that those attending and working in schools do everything they can to follow social distancing, hand hygiene - we all have a role to play

If we keep community transmission low, the impact on schools will be minimised.

Kirsty Williams MS, Education Minister for Wales

Ms Williams also said the government is keeping a "very close eye" on whether there is evidence of transmission within schools.

"We're keeping a very close eye on that and at this stage, we see no evidence of transmission within schools.

"The cases we are aware of are usually because the disease has been acquired in a community setting or between family members."

Just last week, more than 450 pupils were asked to self isolate at Olchfa Comprehensive School after a student tested positive.

Ms Williams said they want to "minimise disruption" if there is a case of coronavirus in a school - and only contacts of the case should be asked to self isolate.

"We are reviewing Welsh Government guidance and ensuring that when schools are conntacted, they are given definitive advice by the track and trace teams."

See more on this story on Wales This Week on Thursday 24 September.