The principal of a Cork primary school has said that an outbreak of Covid-19 could have been prevented if there had been a greater sharing of information by public health authorities.
Speaking to RTÉ News, principal of Gaelscoil Uí Drisceoil, Siobhán Ní Chatháin, said that she was “upset beyond belief” by the forced closure of the school for a two-week period after 17 pupils and staff were identified to have contracted Covid-19.
After the school’s closure, more cases emerged among pupils and staff and among wider family members.
Principal Ní Chatháin said that it is believed that the spread of the virus was in connection with a number of cases in the wider community which were identified by the public health authorities.
She said that the school did not receive information about the positive cases identified.
Public health authorities automatically contact a school when a positive case of Covid-19 was in the school during the infectious period, but principal Ní Chatháin said that any information relating to the school community should be verified with principals.
The school believes that had it been informed of all of the initial cases, contact tracing would have been likely to have prevented the spread of the virus.
The first case of Covid-19 at the school was identified on November 15.
Mass testing of the school's 435 pupils, their teachers and other staff began on Thursday.
The HSE said it closed the school until December 8 as a “precautionary measure” after the 17 cases were confirmed among five classes.
A spokesperson for the HSE praised the school for its handling of the outbreak and thanked staff, pupils, and families for their cooperation.
“The HSE would like [to] acknowledge all the work undertaken by the school to operate in a Covid-19 safe manner and thank the principal and staff for their cooperation and support to assist us with the on-going public health risk assessment. We’d like to reassure both the school community and the wider community that the Department of Public Health locally, supported by national colleagues, are working closely with the school to ensure the outbreak is investigated and controlled,” the spokesperson said.