Parents 'need to set example for children' over social distancing

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020 3:18pm

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Parents need to lead by example and not crowd around schools breaching social distancing guidance, says Derbyshire's public health expert.

Thousands of children have gone back to school over the past few days for the first time in real numbers for months due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scenes from across the country and county over the past week showed gaggles of parents crowding around school gates in the mornings and afternoons to pick up and drop off their kids, breaching guidance and counteracting measures put in place by schools themselves.

Dean Wallace, director of public health at Derbyshire County Council, says schools have the council’s backing to do what they can to help quash the virus and that parents should be acting as role models for their children with regards to Covid guidance.

Mr Wallace also took aim at a vocal minority who seek to “downplay” the threat of the virus and need to follow public health guidance on face masks, hand washing and social distancing.

He agreed that the limbo period before and after school is one in which there is a clear risk that is difficult to mitigate, despite stringent measures in place within school premises.

This comes as Mr Wallace says there are a growing number of Covid cases among older teenagers and ranging up to those aged 30.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The risk of schools is not particularly around children being in the schools but the risk of behaviours at the gates before and after and what parents do in their mixing and how those rules around social distancing are adhered to, or not.

“We need people not to be complacent because it can feel as if things are back to normal with schools back, but that is the time when there is a greater risk.

“We need to get parents to ensure they are setting an example for the children in terms of at the school gates and queuing and keeping the distance, and supporting schools in doing that.

“We need the parents to act as role models for their children, not to scare the kids, but if your parents aren’t following social distancing, chances are your children are not going to have any comprehension of that.”

Covid cases in Derbyshire remain low and Mr Wallace says the county remains below the national average for rate of infection.

There have been 77 new cases of Covid-19 in the fortnight August 15-28 with the most falling in the High Peak (19) followed by Erewash (16) and the Derbyshire Dales (12).

The areas with the highest numbers of cases since February 25 are Glossop (79), Killamarsh (78) and Spital & Hasland (77).

Nationally, the UK recorded its highest daily rise in Covid cases since May on Sunday, September 6 with nearly 3,000.

Mr Wallace said: “My worry is that we are running into this fatigue. During lockdown people stuck to the rules, we turned the curve and started to release measures and now we are starting to see this slight uptick and Derbyshire has done well.

“Now schools are going back, workplaces are going back and at the same time the weather is going to be getting worse, the nights are going to get darker earlier and you are not going to have the same ability to meet people outside distanced, which could mean more fatigue with the rules.

“People are going to start to question people like myself, saying that we are scaremongering and that this isn’t any worse than the flu, that it is a conspiracy. We need to be as strong as we can.

“This is not like the flu, we have not got a vaccine. We do not know the natural disease progression. We are seeing, also, that more young people are suffering long consequences.

“So they get Covid, it’s fairly mild but they suffer fatigue, joint and muscle aches and other consequences for longer periods of time.

“So it is not like it disappears once the actual symptoms have gone and people have died from this virus. Thank goodness we are getting there with treatments but we are far away from knowing everything we need to know about this virus.

“Take these things at your peril if you downplay it.

“I can’t imagine the feeling that these people may have if they break guidelines and it ends up badly affecting a member of their family.

“We have not yet had the hit that other parts of the country have had so it is less likely that you bump into someone that has a horror story to tell, but we can’t get complacent.

“The winter offers the biggest risk, we are entering the riskiest period. Winters are bad at the best of times for the NHS and we need to be responsible.

Mr Wallace says residents are generally following national guidance around face masks and social distancing.

He said: “We are having more cases among older teenagers in particular, who are gathering in groups.

“We are seeing a difference in how different age groups are approaching some of the guidance in line with what are their own individual risk factors and I guess what we need to emphasise is even if you’re not high risk yourself and your symptoms are likely to be mild, if you are living with family members who are vulnerable then you need to be really careful.

“Most people, I would assume, do not want to be passing this virus onto relatives and friends who could suffer far worse consequences than what they do by virtue of underlying health conditions or age.”

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