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Swine Flu - Human Influenza Pandemic Threat

SWINE FLU - HUMAN INFLUENZA PANDEMIC THREAT

I am writing to inform you, as an organisation working with children, schools and families, about what the Department is doing to ensure we are well prepared for the developing situation regarding “swine flu”.

You will be aware that the World Health Organisation upgraded its pandemic influenza alert to level 5 on 29 April.  This means that a world-wide pandemic is imminent and that it is now a matter of some urgency for all organisations to review and prepare to put into action their contingency plans for dealing with a pandemic.

Although there are still relatively few confirmed cases in the UK, the position appears to be developing very rapidly.  The Department has contacted schools and local authorities to remind them of our guidance which covers both planning for a pandemic and what to do in a pandemic, and urging them to review their plans (http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/humanflupandemic/). At the same time we have emphasised that schools and children’s services should be operating normally at present.

We cannot say at this stage whether large numbers of schools, group child care and early settings are likely to have to close for a period.  That will depend on whether we see widespread outbreaks of flu across the country in the coming weeks and on the severity of the infection.  Ministers will take a decision at the appropriate time taking account of the best available medical advice and acting in the best interests of children and young people.

In the meantime it is probable that there will be further closures of particular schools and group child care and early years’ settings where swine flu cases have been confirmed in order to contain the spread of infection. Decisions to close particular schools will be taken locally on the basis of advice from the local health authorities.  The Department is monitoring the situation closely.

I am confident that the Department has prepared well for the possibility of a flu pandemic.  We are already in touch with QCA about how to respond to possible disruption of next week’s National Curriculum Tests and with Ofqual about contingency planning for the possibility that there may be significant disruption to this summer’s public examinations.

We will keep you informed of any further significant developments.  To contact the Department about any policy issues you wish to raise with us please email us at incident.alert@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk.

Helen Williams - Director
School Curriculum & Pupil Well-Being
Department for Children, Schools and Families

4 May 2009

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