Schools need help in handling Covid, principals warn, as second Cork school confirms case

Schools need help in handling Covid, principals warn, as second Cork school confirms case

The Irish Primary Principals Network says schools need more help in managing and communicating cases of Covid-19. Picture: Alison Laredo

A school in Carrigtwohill outside Cork city has become the second primary school in the county to confirm a case of Covid-19.

Cork Education and Training Board (CETB) confirmed a case of Covid-19 today at Scoil Clíodhna in Carrigtwohill.

It is not clear how many of the 200 pupils or staff were impacted by the case but CETB confirmed school authorities are liaising with HSE public health staff.

“Cork ETB has been informed of a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the school. The school has, at all times, followed and implemented all Department of Education and Skills and HSE guidelines. The HSE is now managing this process and the school is working with the HSE and following all their advices,” CETB said in a statement.

It comes as 211 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), with one death, bringing those who have died to 1,781 in total.

Of the new cases, 73% are under 45 years of age, with 28% associated with outbreaks or close contacts of confirmed cases, NPHET said. Some 42 cases have been identified as community transmission. The newly confirmed cases included 121 in Dublin, 17 in Louth, 10 in Limerick, and eight in Cork.

Acting chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, said; “While we are seeing a continued increase in cases, particularly in Dublin, this is at least partly due to the willingness of people to heed our core messages around knowing the symptoms and coming forward promptly for testing."

Scoil Clíodhna is among more than 50 primary and secondary schools across the country to confirm a case of Covid-19 since schools reopened in recent weeks. Another case was confirmed at Scoil Bhríde Eglantine in Douglas earlier this week.

There is little information publicly available from state agencies on school outbreaks and schools are limited in what information can be shared because of data protection rules.

Guidance from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) states there is no ‘blanket policy’ to test an entire class or year group should a case of Covid-19 be confirmed. Instead, public health staff carry out a risk assessment to determine who is a ‘close contact’ of a confirmed case and issue guidance on the need for individuals, pods, or classes to self-isolate or get tested.

The Irish Primary Principal’s Network (IPPN) said schools need greater support from the HSE to ensure consistency in communications to parents and rapid testing where a case is confirmed.

IPPN President Damian White reiterated the call for the HSE to provide dedicated out-of-hours support for schools dealing with Covid-19 cases and possible outbreaks and said all communications should come from the HSE.

“We’re educators, we’re not health professionals and we want to leave it to the health professionals,” Mr White said.

Communication, he said, needs to be standardised and clear to provide reassurance to parents and the wider community and allay any concerns.

“We’re asking for a standard communication, written by the HSE, that explains what is happening, is clear in its message, and can be given out through the school to parents when an outbreak is confirmed in the school community. It's about giving information and reassurance and the fact that they are health professionals gives that reassurance,” he said.

“Information needs to be provided very quickly because time is the enemy in these situations. The quicker you have the information and can share it the better it is for all concerned, as it would help to allay fears."

Mr White said priority and rapid testing is also required for staff and pupils where cases are identified.

“It is happening in some cases but there are cases where it’s not happening quickly enough," he said.

Where children are advised to stay at home from school their learning would continue to be supported by the school, he said.

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