Principal wants return of contact tracing after 21 students test positive for Covid

Principal wants return of contact tracing after 21 students test positive for Covid

The National Public Health Emergency Team says that child-to-child transmission remains 'uncommon' in school settings, and has so far rejected calls to re-introduce contact tracing. 

A principal of a Deis school who spent the mid-term break contacting parents as 21 students tested positive for Covid-19 has called for contact tracing in schools to be reinstated.

Fiona Morley, principal of Clonburris National School, Clondalkin, Dublin, told the Irish Examiner that she spent every day last week contact tracing after parents advised the school of positive cases.

These cases have since spread from the school to older family members and have infected doubly vaccinated adults, according to Ms Morley. She has attempted for a number of days to get updates from the HSE public health teams, but these have not been forthcoming.

“We’re doing everything we can, there’s nothing else we can do,” said Ms Morley. 

If they don’t bring back contact tracing in some sort of form, it’s going to get worse. 

"This took up every day of the mid-term, trying to deal with the emails, messages, and with the HSE.”

Towards the end of September, changes to contact tracing policy stopped the testing and tracing of asymptomatic close contacts in children under the age of 12.

There has been a spike in the number of cases reported in children aged five to 12 years since. The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) says that child-to-child transmission remains “uncommon” in school settings, and has so far rejected calls to re-introduce contact tracing. 

According to Ms Morley, it is clear that the infection is spreading in the school. Staff have learned of the positive cases from parents directly, and a message was sent out to advise there was a positive case in the class, without identifying the child or their pod. 

"It is lucky that they were told because a lot of families would have gone to visit family members and to grandparents during the mid-term break if they didn’t know about the cases, and they didn’t, because it would have spread further. 

"Most have contained it within their immediate families but it is definitely spreading to adults and to adults who are doubly vaccinated.” 

She said pods mean nothing because they are in larger classes.

“We have the windows open, we have the doors open. We had a Covid inspection back in June, we’re following all the procedures, we’ve updated our response plans. The [C02] monitors mean nothing because they are 'amber' the whole time unless no one is in the room. 

If we had been in last week, it would have spread much further because public health would have said, 'you can go in'. 

"There is a knock-on effect with their families. It is affecting everyone; frontline workers and teachers have to be out when their children have symptoms." 

A statement from the HSE did not specifically address the questions put to it by the Irish Examiner. A spokeswoman said public health advice remains the same for any child between three months and 13 years of age with symptoms consistent with Covid-19. 

“They should immediately self-isolate, should not attend childcare or school or socialise, and follow current public health advice.” 

The Department of Education has been contacted for a statement. 

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