Dr Tony Holohan says ‘now is the right time’ to ease Covid measures in primary schools

Dr Tony Holohan said schools are a low risk setting for the transmission of Covid-19 among school-going children.
Dr Tony Holohan says ‘now is the right time’ to ease Covid measures in primary schools

By Rebecca Black, PA

Covid-19 contact tracing is set to stop in childcare and primary schools in Ireland.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said evidence indicates that schools are a low risk setting for the transmission of the virus among school-going children.

He described now as the “right time” to evolve the approach to contact tracing while maintaining infection prevention and control measures in educational settings.

Dr Holohan said the return of children and young people to school earlier this month as association with a “significant increase” in the numbers of children referred for testing.

However, he said that despite the increase in testing, there has “only been a relatively modest” increase in the detection of cases in the school going age group.

“We have also seen the associated positivity rate recently decrease from 16% to 5% which is very reassuring,” he said.

“This is a credit to the infection prevention and control measures being implemented and adhered to by all members of our school communities and I would like to thank everyone who continues to play their part in adhering to the public health measures.”

Dr Holohan announced that from Monday contact tracing of close contacts in childcare facilities and primary education and testing of asymptomatic close contacts in childcare facilities and primary education will no longer be necessary.

He said children aged 12 or under, who are identified as close contacts in childcare and educational settings or other non-household settings and who are asymptomatic will no longer be required to routinely restrict movements.

Cases in Special Educational Needs settings, and respite care should have a Public Health Risk Assessment which may still require children to be identified as close contacts, be referred for testing and have their movements restricted.

However, Dr Holohan said that given the substantially higher risk of transmission in households, children aged 12 years or under, who are identified as household close contacts, will still be required to restrict movements and be tested, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

Public health advice also remains that any child aged 12 years or under who displays symptoms consistent with Covid-19 should rapidly self-isolate, not attend childcare or school or socialise and follow all medical and public health guidance.

Dr Holohan said anyone with concerns relating to the symptoms of Covid-19 should contact their GP and be guided by their advice.

“The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will continue to monitor the trajectory of the disease,” he added.

“At this point in the pandemic, we are all very familiar with the public health advice that will continue to keep us safe, both in school and as we take part in all of the other hobbies and activities that are available to us.

“Vaccination remains our best means of protection against Covid-19. The vaccines available in Ireland are very safe and effective against Covid-19. If vaccination is available to you, then I strongly encourage you to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Continue to regularly wash hands, wear a mask when appropriate – particularly in retail settings, on public transport and in healthcare settings; keep your distance, open windows and ventilate indoor spaces.

“The most important action to take is – if you display symptoms of Covid-19 like cough, fever, fatigue, headache, or sore throat – isolate and contact your GP who will advise if you need to arrange a test.”

A further 1,459 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were notified in the Republic on Sunday.

At 8am on Sunday, there were 296 Covid-positive patients in hospital, with 65 in intensive care.

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