A Cork school forced to close following an outbreak of Covid-19 was unaware of a case of the virus detected within the school community for several days.
Gaelscoil Uí Drisceoil in Glanmire said it believes the outbreak of 17 cases could have been contained if there was greater transparency over sharing data at an earlier stage, the Irish Times reports.
The school closed earlier this week after Covid-19 cases were detected across a number of classes.
It said it was first alerted to a positive case of the virus on November 15th, followed by other cases over subsequent days.
However, it has since emerged that another case was detected within the school community several days previously. The school was unaware of this confirmed case.
It is understood that public health authorities may have had inaccurate information at the time about whether this first case was on the school premises while infectious.
Chair of the school’s board of management, Dr Seán Ó Conaill, said staff and students had done an “amazing job” in taking all precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
However, he said the school was unaware of the heightened risk of the virus circulating due to the fact it was not alerted to the first positive case for several days.
We need to weigh up the right to privacy versus the general public health
“Perhaps the HSE needs to look at how they communicate these cases to schools. We need to weigh up the right to privacy versus the general public health. At a national level, that needs to be looked at,” he said.
Dr Ó Conaill said the school had been working closely with the HSE and he had sympathy that they were “only working with information they had to hand” at the time.
In a statement, the HSE said public health officials were in close contact with the school principal to assess the situation and to provide advice and support to parents, teachers, and students.
It thanked the staff, pupils and families for their cooperation and said public health officials were working to ensure the outbreak was “investigated and controlled.”
In a letter sent to parents earlier this week, the HSE said it is “unusual to see an outbreak of this scale among a school population.”
Due to the high number of cases, the HSE said it had decided to test the rest of the school population, who have been advised to restrict their movements.