Teacher’s union want a faster Covid-19 testing and tracing turnaround

Shauna Ledwidge

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) have said there needs to be “substantial progress” on safety issues in schools to avoid industrial action.

The union’s executive members met last Friday to discuss the outcome of a ballot in favour of taking industrial action over Covid-19 safety concerns in schools.

The committee was told there has been “improved engagement” with the Department of Education and public health authorities.

ASTI president Ann Pigott told the Irish Times that more progress is needed in relation to safety issues in schools.

These issues include faster testing and tracing turnaround times, and IT resources made available for teachers and students. The latter will allow them to work from home in the event of a confirmed case of Covid-19.

They also want a redefinition of close contacts and substantial accommodation for teachers who are in the high-risk category.

Data from the HSE shows that 599 cases of Covid-19 have been detected among pupils or staff in primary and secondary schools since they reopened in August. Over 15,000 staff and students were tested following risk assessments which identified them as close contacts.

About 14.5 per cent of cases were among children between the ages of 4-18 in August. This figure rose to 14.9 per cent and 15.6 per cent in September and October, respectively.

The positivity rate of close contacts in the school setting stands at 2.8 per cent compared to the national positivity rate is about 7.2 per cent.

Data also indicates that students and staff who contract Covid-19 do so within their own communities or families rather than in a school setting.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan said the number of cases related to schools does not cause concern. He says that we are not experiencing an accelerated transmission.

The government maintains that school is a safe environment for teachers and students.

Shauna Ledwidge 

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