Teachers are concerned about contradictory instructions coming from the Department of Health and the Covid-19 tracker app, according to the president of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) and a member of the Cork South union branch.
Ann Piggott called for clarity on whether teachers should self-isolate or not after a student in their class has tested positive for Covid-19.
Ms Piggott was speaking after more than 30 teachers at a school in Drogheda were alerted by the Covid tracker app that they were close contacts of a confirmed Covid-19 case, and were informed to self-isolate.
However, while some teachers were tested, others were told by the HSE that they did not have to isolate or be tested following a risk assessment.
“Thirty teachers were alerted by the app and then were told by the HSE that they weren’t close contacts and that they didn’t need to self-isolate,” said Ms Piggott.
“That’s a complete contraction so of course they were concerned.
“There needs to be greater clarity - should they isolate or not?” she asked.
Ms Piggott explained that this situation sums up the difficulties facing teachers in classrooms across Ireland.
“They’re in classrooms where somebody has tested positive but there’s no follow-up tests or measures for them - they’re told they’re safe to go back to work,” she said.
“If they were in any other workplace, they’d be told to self-isolate in the event of a possible case of Covid-19.
“But because they’re in classrooms with students instead, they have to carry on like nothing has happened,” she added.
“Teachers are very worried amid growing numbers of cases.”
Cork Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire also called for clarity on the situation.
“Whilst it is important that schools are open, an essential part of keeping them open is safeguarding the safety of school staff,” the Sinn Féin Education spokesperson said.
“Teachers are just as susceptible to Covid-19 as any other user of the Covid tracker app.
“One would question the value of the HSE tracking app in the first instance, if its advice is disregarded so bluntly,” he added.
“If anything, it undermines the importance of the ‘close contacts’ notification, as the Department is telling certain cohorts of the public to ignore the app’s advice.”