SCHOOLS are set to face “a challenging couple of months”, says the education minister as winter bugs may cause further disruption to education in 2020.

Minister Kirsty Williams told the Leader how school staff across the country are working to ensure that any more disruption to education in the classroom is minimised now that pupils have returned full time.

However, with the summer fading away and the dark and cold winter months looming, Ms Williams admits that there is a challenge ahead of schools to keep that interruption to a minimum.

She said: “Any further disruption is of course of concern to me, that is why it is really important that people are alert to symptoms – that new and continuous cough, a temperature or the loss of taste or smell. If anyone is experiencing those then they do need to get tested.

“I recognise at this time of year people will also be acquiring ordinary coughs and cold.”

To be as prepared as possible, the Welsh Government minister says that the country needs to make sure its testing regime is “as good as it needs to be so disruption is minimised”.

She continues: “If something turns out to be a regular cold then pupils can get back into the classroom as quickly as it is safe for them to do that. Undoubtedly, it is going to be a challenging couple of months but I am sure that with everyone working together we can minimise disruption going forward.”

The minister adds that, whilst schools have been supplied with some emergency testing kits, the available supply of COVID tests should also be kept available for those displaying symptoms – and not for those simply seeking reassurance.

She said: “Admittedly, testing at the moment can be a challenge so we really need tests to be available for those people who are showing symptoms.

“I know some people may like to get tested for some reassurance but we really need to save tests for people that are displaying the signs of the virus. That is when the testing is most effective.”

A key message also being pushed by the Welsh Government as flu season comes onto the horizon is for any eligible person to get vaccinated and prepare for winter aliments that can be prevented.

The education minister says: “The flu jab season is about to descend upon on – anyone who is entitled to flu vaccinations I would urge them to find out how they can get that done this year.”

Late last month, the Leader reported that local health board Betsi Cadwaladr also urged people to get vaccinated against the newest strain of the flu.

Speaking about vaccines, executive director of public health at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Teresa Owen, said: “This year more than ever, it’s important to optimise your health and reduce the risk of becoming unwell.

“Vaccinations against respiratory conditions and flu are particularly important, given that COVID-19 is still in our communities and is likely to pose a risk throughout the winter.

“Clinics and GP surgeries across North Wales have put in place measures to keep anyone visiting for a vaccination safe."