“Every sensible step” is being taken to ensure the safety of both pupils and staff after the first case of Covid-19 at an Anglesey school.
Following confirmation that a pupil tested positive at Llangefni’s Ysgol Corn Hir on Thursday, councillors were told on Monday that a meeting will take place involving headteachers and education leaders to share best practice going forward.
Addressing the Corporate Scrutiny Committee to discuss the response so far to Covid-19, Chief Executive Annwen Morgan reassured members that risk assessments were being followed as they continually monitor the situation.
Rhys Howard Hughes, the head of education, added that co-operation across schools was “key to containing any further cases” and ensuring that track and trace plays its part.
But echoing similar concerns across the county on testing capacity, committee members decided to write to the Welsh Government over the lack of available slots at North Wales testing sites.
Committee chair, Aled Morris Jones, said that one islander was recently presented with Stranrear and Whitehaven – journeys of 314 and 232 miles respectively – when trying to book a test.
But there was praise for the authority’s reaction to the pandemic so far – including from the leaders of the independent and Labour groups – particularly in light of an outbreak at Llangefni’s 2 Sisters meat processing plant.
In June, 221 positive cases were linked to the plant, leading to a fortnight’s closure and all staff asked to self isolate.
But with Anglesey having become a pilot area for the Welsh Government’s Test, Trace and Protect strategy, it has been claimed that such early intervention played a key role in stopping wider community transmission and a local lockdown.
Annwen Morgan said: “It shows how imperative it was to act with great urgency and immediately taking these concerns to the very heart of the Welsh Government while ensuring that the public message was clear.
“Personally I would not do much differently were it to happen again tomorrow, but there are structures in place now to deal with a similar outbreak were one to take place.”
She added that expertise was being shared across north Wales authorities, with the region’s chief executives continuing to meet weekly.
But members were also told that while the worst case scenario had not yet materialised, with the authority having braced itself for “a large number of deaths,” they remain mindful of the “real possibility that the worst is yet to come.”
“Compared with the scenarios being presented at the start of the pandemic, it’s fair to say that we’re in a relatively stable situation,” added Deputy Chief Executive, Dylan Williams.
Despite this, the report confirmed some of the challenges faced including a lack of Government-supplied PPE at the start of the lockdown, resulting in the authority having to buy in its own stock.
There were relative successes, however, with 10 care home residents testing positive thus far – despite resulting in one death – expressing admiration of front line staff.
And while the financial situation was said to be better than earlier anticipated, the authority’s finance chief threw a note of caution as the pandemic continues to wreck havoc on public finances and creating ongoing uncertainty ahead of next year’s government settlement – which represents the vast majority of the annual income.
Despite the Welsh Government so far paying back over £725,000 in lost income between March and June, such as leisure, car parking and maritime fees, Cllr Robin Williams confirmed that a one year £10m loan was taken out in March to help with short term cash flow.
“While we will be compensated for the lost income and won’t find ourselves in a disastrous situation financially, in fact it’s relatively robust, we’re far from being out of the woods,” he concluded.
“As we know the cases are on the rise now and there’s a real need for care in reacting to what’s looking like a second wave as we enter the autumn and winter.”