Schools are safer from Covid-19 than the wider community, officials have told the HSE.
These comments come as the country enters into a Level 5 lockdown nationwide. Unlike the previous Covid-19 restrictions in early March, both primary and secondary schools will remain open for the duration of the lockdown.
All relevant teacher’s unions have expressed concern around the safety of both students and teachers if the schools are to remain open.
In a statement, the Minister for Education, Norma Foley said that “a significant factor in the decision to move to Level 5 is that by doing so, we can support our schools to continue to operate safely and sustainably during the pandemic.”
“The decision recognises the overwhelming evidence from our public health experts, that schools are a safe environment for our school communities, children and staff members,” Foley said.
According to epidemiological data released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre on October 21st, there has been a rise in the number of weekly Covid-19 outbreaks being detected in schools for the second week in a row.
The latest figures show that there were 46 outbreaks of Covid-19 detected in primary and secondary schools in the week ending October 17th, compared with 25 outbreaks the previous week. An outbreak is described as when two or more linked cases of the virus are identified. The total number of outbreaks since schools reopened in late August-early September now stands at 118.
President for The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), Martin Marjoram said in a statement that more engagement with the Department of Education is needed on a range of issues including the need for additional protection for schools during Level 5 restrictions and the need for rapid testing in schools.
“Across the country, teachers and students are waiting too long for both tests and test results and this is making the day to day running of schools very difficult,” Marjoram said.
According to recent public health data, the detection of Covid-19 in schools is at a rate of 2%. This rate is comparable to a positive rate of over 7% in the wider community.
Public Health also confirmed that there is ongoing mass testing in schools to assess the levels of transmission and that this low rate supports other evidence that schools are a safe environment for staff and students.
Image credit: Sathishaa Mohan