Union calls for the return of contact tracing in schools

ireland
Union Calls For The Return Of Contact Tracing In Schools Union Calls For The Return Of Contact Tracing In Schools
Meanwhile, the INTO has also called for a pilot antigen testing scheme to begin without delay in primary schools.
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Olivia Kelleher

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) has called for the resumption of contact tracing in primary schools amid a surge in Covid cases in Ireland.

President of the INTO Joe McKeown told Newstalk Breakfast that the rise in Covid-19 infections in the community requires the intervention of public health authorities.

"We do certainly want that (the return of full contact tracing in schools). Antigen testing wouldn't be of much use unless you knew who you were giving the test to and contact tracing them and getting accurate data.

"We said from the beginning of this year that the Government should take a cautious approach in relation to schools and we said that at the end of the September that the Government should wait until Halloween before deciding whether or not to remove the risk assessments and the contact tracing.

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Mr McKeown said that last week 2,393 primary school children in this country tested positive for Covid-19.

"Principals are saying to us, and we know it is happening that they are being left waiting day after day. They might hear from a parent on a Saturday that their child has tested positive for Covid.

"They don't hear anything from the HSE until Tuesday or Wednesday if at all. And day after day the numbers rise and principals are left on their own trying to make decisions with proper risk assessments being supplied to them. That needs to change. "

Pilot scheme

Meanwhile, the INTO has also called for a pilot antigen testing scheme to begin without delay in primary schools. Mr McKeown said antigen testing may have a role in facilitating the attendance of children in school.

"We are also in a situation where we know over two thousand children were out of school with Covid but we have no idea how many parents kept their children outside of school this week because they heard there might have been a case in a class.

"Instead of relying on that sort of information we would like children who are close contacts to be identified. (Antigen testing) would be a very welcome development, but you cannot identify who the close contacts are unless you have public health advice and that is not being provided to schools at the moment"

A principal on his or her own cannot decide who the close contacts are, but they are left in the situation where people expect them to and that needs to change he said.

Mr McKeown added that the advice given by the deputy chief medical officer, Ronan Glynn, that parents should restrict the after school activities of their children was a "sensible" intervention.

"We are delighted that this Halloween is going to be a lot better Halloween (than last year.). We can continue to enjoy ourselves and do good things, but it makes sense for all of us to try as hard as we can to keep our contacts a bit lower than we might have done when case numbers were lower."

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