Teachers have called for faster testing times, increased contact tracing and a review of the situation for high-risk teachers as schools prepare to remain open while the country enters Level Five restrictions.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed on Monday that Level 5 restrictions will come into force from midnight on Wednesday for six weeks, in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19 and avoid a ‘grave situation’.
Level 5 restrictions will see the closure of all non-essential services, including pubs and restaurants, with attendance at funerals and weddings restricted to 25 people, and five kilometre restrictions in place unless for essential reasons.
However, schools are set to remain open throughout the Level 5 lockdown.
Ann Piggott is president of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) and a member of the Cork South Branch of the union.
In light of the Government’s decision to keep schools open in Level Five, Ms Piggott called for a “rapid response” to ensure that they can do so safely and while mitigating the spread of Covid-19.
“The latest restrictions, while deemed Level 5, appear to be a mix of restrictions from different levels, from Level 3 advice surrounding numbers at weddings to Level 5 restrictions imposing a five kilometre maximum distance for exercise,” she said.
“The original plan stated that schools would remain open at levels one to four and at Level 5, recommendations would ‘be based on situation and evidence at the time’.
“The current view by the government is a focus on keeping schools open. Positive cases in schools have grown and the ASTI has called for intensive daily monitoring of the progression of the virus in schools.
“A rapid response is needed in any deterioration of circumstances in school settings.”
Ms Piggott said the ASTI would welcome all safety measures such as increased testing, rapid testing turnaround times, increased contact tracing and the “implementation of every arrangement possible to maintain the health and safety of all students and adults within schools”.
“Further issues such as people gathering outside of schools, safety measures as students travel to schools, and mingling closely with friends while not wearing masks, are also of concern,” she added.
Ms Piggott said that, as things stand, contact tracing is slow and teachers feel more is needed for schools to operate safely.
“We need faster test turnaround times, more contact tracing and a review of the situation for high risk teachers,” she concluded.