Cllr Charles Margetts, executive member for health, wellbeing and adult services, comments on the high and rising Covid-19 cases in the borough:
“Covid-19 infection rates are the highest they’ve ever been in the borough and are continuing to rise. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced at the end of last week that PCR tests completed at testing sites including the Newbury Showground and Mereoak Park & Ride have been processed at the private laboratory where testing has been suspended due to reports of negative PCR results after positive lateral flow tests (false negative results).
"As a result, since early September a proportion of residents have not isolated when infectious as they have been told, in error, that their Covid test was negative, which has contributed to an increase in transmission within the borough.
“Anyone affected will have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace over the weekend and asked to re-test. Whilst the full impact of these false negative test results is not yet clear, we anticipate that as residents re-test, the Covid case rate will be driven up further, both within our borough and also in the neighbouring boroughs of West Berkshire and Reading.
"This is the pattern currently being seen across the South West as a result of re-testing. Please note that the lab has now stopped processing samples, and residents should continue to use these testing sites with confidence.
“The cases are predominantly impacting school-age children and their families. Our Children’s Services Taskforce has taken a proactive approach; working closely with schools, identifying outbreaks early and encouraging testing across settings. This ensures that children who test positive stay home and isolate, minimising onward transmission within the school setting.
"Our teams are going above and beyond to support schools during this stressful time, and are in daily contact with headteachers by phone, email and virtual meetings, providing advice, guidance and important information to share with parents, carers and guardians.
“The Covid-19 vaccine offers the best defence against the virus. Over 18s need both doses for maximum protection, and anyone eligible for the booster jab will be contacted by the NHS in the coming months. The school-based vaccination programme is going well, with Wokingham Borough showing the highest take-up in Berkshire. As it takes at least two weeks for the vaccine to be effective, we are hoping to see the impact of this within our schools after half term.
"If your child missed the vaccine, it has been announced that walk-in vaccine clinics for 12 to 15-year-olds are expected to launch in England within weeks, so keep an eye out for more information on this.
“With half-term around the corner, we are urging all our residents to remain cautious when mixing with friends and family. The chances of catching and spreading the virus remains high, especially when crowded together indoors.
"Please wear a face covering when socialising in indoor venues and try to meet outside where Covid-19 particles can blow away. If you are meeting inside, ventilation is crucial, even in the Autumn months – so open windows and doors to allow fresh air to flow through.
“We’ve come a long way in the fight against Covid-19, but it isn’t over yet. Let’s continue to do everything we can to stay safe while cases are high and rising, and protect ourselves and our loved ones.”