The number of confirmed Covid-19 outbreaks in schools has seen a significant drop this week.
According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) bulletin, there were a total of 10 outbreaks and 45 confirmed cases in the week ending October 2nd.
This is a notable drop from the previous week ending September 25th, which saw a total of 49 outbreaks and 304 confirmed cases.
Nine out of ten of the recorded outbreaks were in primary schools, while the other is unknown, but linked to school bus transportation.
According to the HSPC bulletin, the general number of confirmed cases in the 5-12 age group has also consistently been dropping the last three weeks.
These numbers concur with the changes in how Covid-19 is monitored in schools.
As of September 27th, any asymptomatic close contacts were not automatically tested, and automatic contact tracing was discontinued.
This means that students aged 12 and under who are close contacts but are not showing symptoms are not required to restrict their movements unless instructed by a public health team.
The General Secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), John Boyle, claims to be “absolutely flabbergasted” by these easing of close contact rules.
Speaking to Newstalk last week, Boyle said he felt as though it was a removal of a “safety net” for schools.
According to the Irish Examiner, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said the easing of these rules come after much discussion with the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and is in line with expert advice on public health.
Similarly, Professor Philip Nolan, chair of NPHET’s epidemiological modelling advisory group, says that there is “no evidence that the reopening of schools has led to an increase in transmission” of Covid-19 cases in a series of tweets posted on September 22nd.
Currently, the public health guidance instructs those who are close contacts do not need to test or restrict their movements as long as they are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic. The Minister for Health says that children aged 5-12 will likely not be fully vaccinated by the end of this year, but that it will be kept under “close review” – according to the Irish Examiner.
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