County schools have seen eight Covid-19 outbreaks in two weeks with hundreds of students forced back into learning from home.
Figures revealed by Public Health Northamptonshire on Friday (July 9) showed 171 new cases among people of school age in two weeks up to July 5 with five "education settings" forced to be closed on July 7 .
Three of the outbreaks recorded in two weeks up to July 5 were in Northampton, two each in the former Daventry and East Northamptonshire authority areas and one in Wellingborough.
Outbreaks are defined as two or more cases linked by place and time to one setting.
Students testing positive plus any pals in 'bubbles' who are identified close contacts are required to self-isolate for up to ten days as part of the government's system under which all pupils in a class or year group musts quarantine.
Each bubble is meant to keep separate from others to minimise the spread of coronavirus and prevent entire schools from having to self-isolate. But the system has been heavily criticised by parents and teachers over concerns pupils are missing school unnecessarily.
More than one-third of all new positive tests in Northamptonshire during the period June 7 to July 4 were delivered by those aged 19-and-under while 19 per cent of all education settings in the county have seen at least one Covid case.
County health chiefs admit schools are not obliged to report cases to the Covid Schools Cell but continue to take advice and guidance on outbreaks of concern.
Lucy Wightman, Director of Public Health, said: "The Covid Schools Cell works closely to support these Northamptonshire schools, alongside the local public health team, Public Health England, and our Environmental Health colleagues in the unitary authorities, to ensure that measures are in place to prevent further virus spread.
“Those schools who have sought advice are working hard to monitor and contain their situations, putting advice given into practice, and are keeping parents and guardians informed of any developments.
“Unfortunately we have seen an increase in cases of Covid-19 across the country and in Northamptonshire and thus a corresponding increase in self-isolation in school settings during the past seven days."
Most schools break-up this week but information garnered from the NHS Test and Trace service shows most transmission of the virus is NOT happening in schools.
Mrs Wightman added: “The figures have in the main been driven by increased mixing outside of the school environment.
"So please be cautious when mixing, do this outdoors wherever possible, or if it has to be indoors keep a distance and ventilate rooms well. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”
Latest government figures published on Sunday (July 11) showed 1,340 positive Covid tests reported across Northamptonshire during the last week — nearly 50 percent up on the previous seven days.
Add Northamptonshire's two acute hospitals were treating 11 Covid patients — including one in intensive care — on July 6, compared to three a week earlier.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed last week the bubble system in schools will be scrapped when kids return in September so that only those who test positive for Covid-19 will have to self-isolate.
Back in May, students were told they no longer needed to wear face coverings in classrooms or communal areas in schools and colleges. But some Northamptonshire schools quickly advised their pupils to carry on covering up after cases began rising.