Covid-19: 15 teachers forced to self-isolate after outbreak in Limerick school

Latest national figures show 12 coronavirus outbreaks recorded in schools last week

Six teachers at a Co Limerick school have tested positive for coronavirus since last weekend, which led to a further nine teachers being deemed close contacts and having to self-isolate for 14 days. Photograph: iStock

Six teachers at a Co Limerick school have tested positive for coronavirus since last weekend, which led to a further nine teachers being deemed close contacts and having to self-isolate for 14 days. Photograph: iStock

 

Fifteen teachers have had to self-isolate following a Covid-19 outbreak in a Co Limerick secondary school.

A total of six teachers at the school have tested positive for coronavirus since last weekend, which led to a further nine teachers being deemed close contacts and having to self-isolate for 14 days.

As a precautionary measure, all of the school’s remaining teachers along with ancillary staff have been tested and returned negative results for Covid-19.

The school’s principal confirmed details of the outbreak to The Irish Times, but requested that the school not be named to protect the privacy of staff members.

The school has not been notified of any student cases. However, as a precaution, all transition year students and a “small” number of students from other year groups have been identified as close contacts and have been asked to self-isolate.

Due to the large number of teachers absent through self-isolation, some year groups have been asked to stay at home and will be taught remotely next week, However, most classes will go ahead as planned.

The principal said the school had been able to call on a number of substitute teachers, along with student teachers on college placements and the goodwill of other teachers who were covering for their colleagues.

The principal added that no students would be disadvantaged due to the absent teachers, while it is envisaged that all Christmas exams will continue as planned.

Overall, the level of transmission of Covid-19 in schools appears to remain low with a total of 12 coronavirus outbreaks recorded in schools last week, based on latest official figures.

The number of outbreaks in schools has been, broadly, on a downward trajectory since it peaked at 46 in the run-up to the October mid-term break.

Weekly clusters fell to 24 in the first week of November, 10 the following week before climbing to 19 a fortnight ago.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre report says while school outbreaks indicate that at least two children or staff members had the virus, transmission of Covid-19 within the school was not necessarily established.

Public health officials have said family settings continue to be the main driver of cases.

For example, last week a total of 262 outbreaks were detected in family homes, while some 652 were recorded the previous week.

Separately, a Department of Education report into the reopening of schools has found that many are facing challenges finding substitute teachers due to Covid-related absences.

Many school principals have reported difficulties securing qualified cover for teachers who have been forced to self-isolate or are required to undergo testing.

The report is based on responses from more than 700 principals across the primary and secondary sector during September.

Overall, most schools reported that they had reopened and were continuing to operate safely.

However, many principals said the changes and challenges of previous months meant that they were experiencing significant pressure and high stress levels.

Schools said they were facing practical challenges in implementing public health advice in some cases, especially where space available to accommodate appropriate physical distancing was limited.