Antigen testing pilot for schools should start within two weeks, says INTO president

The views of teachers and pupils should be taken into consideration, the INTO president said.
Antigen testing pilot for schools should start within two weeks, says INTO president

Vivienne Clarke

The president of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), Joe McKeown has called for a pilot programme on antigen testing in primary schools to commence within the next two weeks.

He also called for mask wearing to be introduced for children.

Many children would like to wear masks, so they would feel safer, he told Newstalk.

The WHO had made a recommendation for children over the age of eight years to wear masks, he said. The views of teachers and pupils should be taken into consideration.

In September the feeling had been that the number of cases in schools would reduce or stablise, he commented, but instead they had risen and something needed to be done now to ensure every child could continue to go to school. The Delta variant "was a different beast".

There were 3,000 primary school principals in the country, said Mr McKeown, and their experience and expertise was important and should be utilised.

The Ferguson report in April had recommended a pilot for antigen testing in schools, that had not happened in the Spring or in September, and it should happen within the next two weeks, he urged.

While C02 monitors were useful in identifying classrooms that had problems, the issue was what to do then. There was a need for filters, added Mr McKeown.

Further measures

On the same programme infectious diseases expert Prof Eoghan de Barra said that the absence of 3,5000 healthcare workers who were currently off work because of Covid symptoms, was putting a lot of pressure on services.

While the vaccine was “still excellent” at preventing hospitalisations and deaths, other measures needed to be looked at closely, he said.

Professor de Barra said he did not understand the “lack of engagement” about antigen testing as he felt every mitigating measure should be used.

Even though antigen testing was not as sensitive as PCR testing, it was immediate and accessible when it could take two to three days to get a PCR test, he said.

All the tools available should be used, he urged.

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