THE return of youngsters to school at the start of March has had little impact on coronavirus rates in Cumbria, a health boss has said.

Cumbria’s director of public health Colin Cox said that the levels of infection rates has stayed pretty much a constant since schools physically went back to class, suggesting it has had little to no impact.

“The rates have remained at the same level for around three weeks now,” Mr Cox said.

“We have not seen any sign of schools returning making any difference to the infection rates.

“Some cases have been spotted and we have had few outbreaks in schools, but they were due to external factors that happened outside the schools rather than them catching it in the school.

“So at the moment it is very positive news.

“The situation at the moment is we have rates that are low, and we are doing this lockdown easing gradually which is right way to do it. So, we will see change slowly.

“The next thing we are looking at will be what happens with the next stage of easing lockdown now, on April 12.”

Mr Cox cited the huge effort Cumbria has made with the rapid result lateral flow testing sites which have largely been run from schools in areas of dense population across the county.

He said it was “entirely possible” that this was the reason why the infection rates of Covid-19 have stayed so low.

The 11 centres were previously only open to essential workers who were unable to work from home, but with people being able to mix more socially outside, the decision has been taken to make Lateral Flow Testing available to anyone in the community who does not have Covid-19 symptoms but wants a test to help keep themselves, their family and those they come into contact with, safe.

The current sites are in Barrow, Dalton, Millom, Kendal, Penrith, Milnthorpe, Sedbergh, Workington, Whitehaven, Carlisle and Aspatria, with others being scoped.

The rapid result test centres use Lateral Flow Device tests which are processed on site without needing to be sent to a laboratory.

The tests give a result in 30 minutes and help identify asymptomatic carriers, people who do not feel unwell but do have Covid-19 and are infectious. These people can then self-isolate to protect others.

“It is still important people understand we are not there just yet and that transmission rates could still rise if we were to get a new variant for example,” Mr Cox said.

“So even though we have all these people vaccinated it is still important to follow the guidance to avoid another outbreak.”