School blames ‘serious flaws’ in HSE Covid rules after outbreak of 30 cases

The outbreak is forcing the CBS primary school in Co Wexford to close its doors until November
School blames ‘serious flaws’ in HSE Covid rules after outbreak of 30 cases

An outbreak of more than 30 cases of Covid-19 has forced a primary school in Co Wexford to close its doors until next month.

The CBS primary school has blamed “serious flaws” with the HSE’s revised close contact rules, according to The Irish Times.

The closure follows an emergency meeting of the school’s board of management on Sunday evening, which said it was closing the 270-pupil school as a “vital health and safety precaution for all”.

Under changes to HSE rules last month, children who are close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases in primary schools are no longer required to self-isolate if they are symptom free.

Letter to parents

In a message to parents issued just before 6pm on Sunday, school principal Vicky Barrow said the school’s board decided to close its building and move to online teaching due to the volume of Covid-19 cases.

The school was first informed of a case in one of its classes on October 8th, and informed of a second case two days later, she said.

Ms Barrow said that under revised HSE guidelines for schools, children in the class were no longer classed as close contacts and no contact tracing was carried out.

As a result, “children without symptoms were allowed to attend school”.

By October 11th, the school was informed of two further positive cases and the board of management took the decision to close the class.

“It was only on Tuesday 12th that the HSE recognised that the entire class were close contacts and sent all children for testing,” the letter states.

Siblings

Ms Barrow said that siblings of that class were advised to continue to attend school by the HSE as they were recognised as “casual contacts”.

“As the week progressed, we had 19 positive cases in the class, with some children testing positive on their second test. However, siblings were only advised to isolate once a case was found in their household,” she said.

“A number of siblings have now tested positive throughout the school, and many are asymptomatic. It is now evident that many of these children were present at school during the infectious period [through no fault of parents as HSE guidance was followed].

“We also had over 35 per cent of children absent on Friday of last week, many parents citing illness as the reason. We have also been sending children home daily with symptoms of Covid-19.

“As it stands, this evening we have over 30 cases of Covid-19 in our school and expect to hear more in the coming days.”

‘Little protection’

Ms Barrow said the school has “cleaned and fogged our school daily but we have been told again by the HSE that there is little protection against the Delta airborne virus.”

Ms Barrow added: “It is very clear that there are serious flaws in the HSE guidance in schools and the board of management has decided, in the best interests for the health and safety of all our pupils and their families, to implement these emergency measures.”

Health authorities have meanwhile said that the latest data indicates that schools continue to be a low-risk environment for Covid transmission.

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