Public health officials say they are "throwing everything they can" into making sure schools are as safe as possible from coronavirus.

The government has decided to keep schools and other educational settings open during the lockdown.

This provides a challenge for teachers and health officials who are tasked with ensuring outbreaks of Covid-19 are squashed as quickly as possible to avoid a wider spread.

Dozens of schools in Hertfordshire have suffered from coronavirus outbreaks since September – and thousands of parents in the county have signed a petition calling for schools to close.

Director of public health in Hertfordshire, Jim McManus, explained in a virtual media briefing this week that there is plenty of focus on schools, and care settings, with dedicated teams working around the clock to make sure schools are as Covid secure as possible.

It comes after a graph shared by Mr McManus showed that education settings were the biggest source of infection of new cases in Hertfordshire over the last week, closely followed by shopping environments.

Mr McManus said: "We’ve got two teams now of infection control nurses, environmental health officers, health and safety managers, case co-ordinators, a 7-day-a-week helpdesk, and there’s a daily schools incident management team.

"When we have an outbreak in a school, we go in and we take appropriate action which is isolation.

"We write to parents about what’s required and we now are the single source of information for parents about self-isolating, so schools are asked to contact us so we deal with it locally.

"And we’ve got two very experienced head teachers working with us."

New government guidance issued this week says all students and teachers in secondary schools and colleges in England should wear face coverings when moving around the premises.

They will be required to wear face coverings in communal spaces, outside of classrooms, where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Mr McManus continued: "The problem is you’ve got 540 odd schools, staff and students. We’ve also worked hard on school transport. We are throwing the best part of about £1.2m of technical expert staff time at this not to mention the guidance, training, webinars we’ve been doing.

"On top of that, we’ve been doing work on out of hours school and sports club to make sure they are all Covid secure. They meet everyday in an incident management team and we have an on-call person who simply deals with that. We’ve recruited two more to that team.

"We are throwing everything we can it. The trouble is it’s a virus that is transmitted by respiratory and droplet means and you will always see in younger people a higher level of circulation - but the government has chosen to keep education open so we will continue to put everything we can into addressing it and making it as safe as possible."

Under new lockdown rules, all out-of-school activities have temporarily stopped (with a few exceptions) or moved online.