1,459 new Covid cases confirmed as Dr Holohan outlines new contact tracing rules for schools

1,459 new Covid cases confirmed as Dr Holohan outlines new contact tracing rules for schools

Dr Holohan addresses the media at a Nphet presss conference on Covid-19. Picture: Collins

The Department of Health has confirmed an additional 1,459 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours.

There are 296 people in hospital, up 14, with 65 in ICU, unchanged from yesterday.

In the North, a further six patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 have died.

The Department of Health also notified another 1,020 positive cases of the virus.

The latest Covid-19 data comes as the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Tony Holohan moved to reassure parents and the public about changes to the contact tracing system in education settings for children. 

Clinically safe

From Monday, the contact tracing protocols for schools, creches, and children’s extracurricular activities are set to drastically change.

There are 296 people in hospital, up 14, with 65 in ICU, unchanged from yesterday.
There are 296 people in hospital, up 14, with 65 in ICU, unchanged from yesterday.

Public health experts believe it is clinically safe to ease the majority of test and trace protocols for children aged 12 and under, provided they have no symptoms of Covid-19.

In a statement this afternoon, Dr Holohan said the number of children referred for Covid-19 testing was to be expected as schools returned and that the associated positivity rate in education settings was falling from 16% to 5%.  

Describing this as "reassuring", he said: "Both nationally and internationally, the evidence tells us that schools are a low risk setting for the transmission of Covid-19 among school-going children and, as such, now is the right time to evolve our contact tracing approach, while maintaining the infection prevention and control measures in place in educational settings."

As a result Dr Holohan said children under 12 years of age who are identified as close contacts in childcare and educational settings and are asymptomatic will no longer be required to routinely restrict movements.

The statement from the CMO outlined the further changes coming into effect from tomorrow: 

  • Contact tracing of close contacts in childcare facilities and primary education and testing of asymptomatic close contacts in childcare facilities and primary education will no longer be necessary.
  • Children aged 12 years or under, who are identified as close contacts in childcare and educational settings or other non-household settings and who are asymptomatic will no longer be required to routinely restrict movements.
  • Cases in Special Educational Needs settings, and respite care should have a Public Health Risk Assessment which may still require children to be identified as close contacts, be referred for testing and have their movements restricted.
  • Given the substantially higher risk of transmission in households as compared to any other setting, children aged 12 years or under, who are identified as household close contacts, will still be required to restrict movements and be tested, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.
  • Public health advice remains that any child aged 12 years or under who displays symptoms consistent with Covid-19 should rapidly self-isolate, not attend childcare or school or socialise and follow all medical and public health guidance.

The CMO added that anyone concerned about symptoms of Covid-19 they are displaying should contact their GP. 

"The most important action to take is - if you display symptoms of Covid-19 like cough, fever, fatigue, headache, or sore throat - isolate and contact your GP who will advise if you need to arrange a test," he said.

Nonsense policy

Meanwhile, a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team has said suggestions that there is a "policy" to allow children to become infected with Covid 19 is nonsense.

This week there has been some criticism of the policy that automatic testing and isolation for children under 13 who are close contacts will come to an end tomorrow.

In a series of tweets today Professor Philip Nolan said at current infection rates it would take 3 - 5 years for all existing children to become infected.

His comments come after the Taoiseach said he has no issue with the principle of children aged 5 - 12 being vaccinated against Covid 19.

Micheál Martin's comments followed the announcement by Pfizer/BioNTech that their shot is safe and effective for children in that age group.

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