According to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan, contact tracing and testing in schools will be among the new measures being considered by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
This comes after Holohan sent a letter to Education Minister Norma Foley where he highlighted how the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on school settings was brought to the attention of Stephen Donnelly.
Primary school teachers have been urging for action to be taken on the rise in Covid-19 cases among children under 12 years old, who are not eligible to be vaccinated.
Teachers feel that the withdrawal of testing and tracing in schools is a factor in the rise in cases. The ECDC report recommended a “test-to-stay” strategy that would use antigen tests.
Additional measures are also suggested such as ramping up PCR testing and contact tracing to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.
The report also suggested enhancements to the current regime which include testing only the closest contacts of a confirmed case, if two or more cases are found in a class then the entire class should be tested, and if additional cases are found in a class then the quarantining of the entire class should be considered.
The ECDC stated, “’Test-to-stay’ strategies could additionally be considered in an attempt to minimise disruption in school settings and school absenteeism, while also limiting opportunities for further Covid-19 transmission.”
Holohan told Ms. Foley that NPHET were reviewing recent trends such as the high incidence rate among children aged five to 12, however, he said that the majority of transmission among this age group takes place in household settings and not schools.
“Schools have not been identified as significant Covid-19 amplification settings”.
He added that reducing community transmission was the best way to protect schools.
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