Covid app switch-off: Concerns raised about advice to teachers and special needs assistants

Covid app switch-off: Concerns raised about advice to teachers and special needs assistants

Cork-based ASTI president Ann Piggott questioned why there were different circumstances regarding the app for different professions. “If the app supposedly works, why are teachers told to ignore it?”

THERE are concerns that teachers and special needs assistants may be being advised to turn off Bluetooth on their phones while at work.

In doing so, however, staff would not be notified if they are in close proximity to a confirmed case of Covid-19.

In correspondence from a HSE official, seen by The Echo, it is stated: “In regard to teachers and SNAs, I understand that the advice is turn off bluetooth while they are at work.”

Cork-based ASTI president Ann Piggott questioned why there were different circumstances regarding the app for different professions. “If the app supposedly works, why are teachers told to ignore it?”

Official advice for schools says that not all people alerted as close contacts by the HSE Covid tracker app may be actually deemed to be close contacts following a public health risk assessment, but that once the assessment is complete, they will advise people of the public health instructions.

However, the process is taking a considerable amount of time, especially following the news of the collapse of the HSE’s test and trace system last weekend.

Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould said the issue affected his wife, who is a secondary school teacher.

Mr Gould’s wife was notified via the Covid app last Thursday evening that she was a close contact of a confirmed case and she would be contacted by the HSE within 24 hours.

“On the same day, there was a case confirmed in her school and she was informed that she was not considered to be a close contact.

“Without contact tracing, she cannot be sure that this case in the school is the same one as the app notified her of. Because of the app notification, she had to restrict her movements,” Mr Gould said.

“On Monday she still hadn’t heard. I took the difficult decision with the advice of the Covid office in Leinster House not to travel to the Dáil until this was resolved and to err on the side of caution. I contacted the HSE through my office and was told that someone would be in touch. On Tuesday, we still hadn’t heard. I contacted the minister for health’s office and was told there was nothing they could do,” he said.

Five days’ later Mr Gould’s wife decided to contact her GP herself, having heard nothing from the HSE’s contact tracing team, and a Covid-19 test was arranged for the following day. She received a negative result.

Mr Gould said he went straight to the Dáil on Thursday evening.

“Eight days later and she still hasn’t received a phonecall from the HSE. This is clearly not good enough,” he said.

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