The antigen testing programme to be introduced shortly into primary schools will not involve the widespread testing of pupils before attending school as happens in other jurisdictions.
That’s according to Dr Tony Holohan, the chief medical officer (CMO), who ruled out a programme that would see students testing themselves regularly prior to attending school.
Further details about the programme will be announced in the coming days, according to Dr Holohan. The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is not “contemplating” a system of antigen testing across all schools, he said:
“We have been looking in recent days at the most recent European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) guidance and advice, and we’re now just looking to try and see what’s the most effective means of operationalising a very specific set of guidances that might apply to those who might be regarded as close contacts in a school environment.”
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has welcomed the confirmation that antigen tests will be used in specific circumstances in schools, but warned that “time is of the essence”.
“We simply can’t afford any additional delays,” said John Boyle, INTO general secretary. Antigen testing could become an important additional infection prevention and control measure, given the rate of infection amongst children of primary school age, he added.
“Political leadership is essential to ensure swift action on this front.”
Dr Ronan Glynn, the deputy CMO, said today that any child who has symptoms suggestive of Covid-19 should not be going to school.
"They need to stay at home and they need to get PCR tested."
That will have a knock-on impact in terms of reducing RSV infections amongst younger children, and reducing the spread of Covid in schools, he added.
"It will also have an impact on reducing the spread of influenza over the coming weeks that will become more of an issue in this country."