Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tony Holohan has come out to defend the government’s stance on the new primary school contact tracing protocol, saying that children are much more likely to contract the virus either at home or out in the community than they are at school.
Back in September, NPHET implemented a new set of guidelines surrounding primary school children and contact tracing, which has since received quite a lot of negative feedback from teachers’ unions.
These new guidelines meant that primary school children who are considered a close contact no longer need to self isolate and miss school, as long as they present no symptoms and the confirmed case is not a member of their household.
However, over the past few months there have been several Covid outbreaks detected in primary schools, including a school in Kerry which saw more than 40 confirmed cases before the Halloween break.
As reported by Independent.ie, Dr. Holohan has insisted that the number of positive cases within primary schools decreased at the beginning of the school year, around late August, when testing increased.
“We had a huge increase in the number of people having PCR tests in the 5–12-year age group and what actually happened is the test positivity fell significantly,” he said on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.
He continued to explain how international research shows when schools follow public health measure “really, really well”, it helps to make them “low risk situations in relative terms”.
“The reason that children in the 5-12-year age group are getting infections, they’re for the most part picking this infection up in the community and at home rather than necessarily transmitting it in the school,” he continued.
Meanwhile, INTO (Irish National Teachers’ Organisation) general secretary John Boyle argued on the same programme that the previous contact tracing protocol is what kept the schools open for 30 out of their 37 weeks last year.
“The public health supports that were there until the 27th of September were serving the system well. Schools were open last year for 30 out of 37 weeks. The case numbers were a hell of a lot lower than now,” he said.
“Then Delta came in at the beginning of September to schools and it has really caused massive difficulties and we have nobody to help us. We can’t even get a call from public health. So, principals are abandoned and left on their own to try and deal with it and they’re not qualified to do so.”
Continuing, Mr. Boyle said, “We need to deal with substitutions by making more teachers available – there are teaching students available. I think that Government has to step in and make those measures immediately.”