Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) president John Boyle has welcomed plans to introduce antigen testing in schools and called for such a scheme to be introduced straight away.
His comments come as a further 2,975 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in the Republic.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s News at One, Mr Boyle said antigen testing should be used as a means of keeping children in school rather than for screening.
“We already have 6,144 children of primary school going age with Covid-19 and off classes,” he said.
At present 450 children per day are being diagnosed with the virus, he added, so action was needed immediately.
An implementation date for antigen testing had not yet been identified, said Mr Boyle. “We can’t afford to wait to have the numbers double again, they already doubled last month.”
The INTO wanted to see schools remain open safely, and it had been agreed that there would be no face-to-face parent teacher meetings. “We don’t need to see more Covid coming into schools,” the union representative explained.
Mr Boyle said that it had been shown that when community levels of the virus rose so too did levels in schools, but no cross-checking was being done at present because of the withdrawal of contact tracing of close contacts (in schools).
If antigen testing were to be introduced in schools, Mr Boyle said, he presumed that would mean some form of contact tracing.
“It’s really important that we implement antigen tests in schools straight away.
“We can't wait until the peak of the current wave with thousands of cases every day before we do it.”
The INTO had received “a big undertaking” from the HSE that they would implement “a big awareness campaign” around what symptoms to look out for and when to stay out of school.
Everyone needed to be aware of the importance of staying from school if anyone had symptoms, he concluded.