More than 1,600 primary and secondary schools in Ireland have reported positive Covid-19 cases since reopening.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is facing an unprecedented surge in the testing of children amid school returns, according to The Irish Times.
Over the past week, around 32,000 tests were carried out on children aged up to 14 who walked in for tests or self-referred, as schools return amid high rates of the more transmissible Delta variant in the wider community.
This figure does not include children who were referred for tests by GPs or as close contacts of confirmed cases.
“What we are seeing is a real surge in demand for testing for young children,” said Niamh O’Beirne, the HSE’s national lead for testing and tracing.
Another 10,000 isolating
The proportion of those testing positive among walk-in and self-referred tests has dropped to six per cent from 13 per cent last week, reflecting the large numbers coming forward to be tested.
More than 10,000 schoolchildren are estimated to be isolating at home, with 632 secondary schools and 1,011 primary schools and preschool facilities contacting the HSE about cases.
“It’s not surprising for us to see a surge respiratory-like infection in the first few weeks after returning to school,” said HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry.
Dr Henry said health officials were “watching carefully” how the Delta variant was affecting transmission in schools and impact of the health guidance on school absences.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will meet next Thursday to consider whether to relax the 14-day isolation rule for schoolchildren deemed close contacts of cases now that more people are vaccinated, he said.
Sinn Féin and Labour have called on Nphet to meet this week and consider the issue, with Labour education spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin saying it was “just not sustainable” to have so many students out of school.