Covid-19: Forty-three new cases in schools after mass testing

Teachers’ union to ballot for industrial action amid mounting concern over staff safety

The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) said on Saturday it will ballot for industrial action

The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) said on Saturday it will ballot for industrial action

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Mass testing has detected an additional 43 cases of Covid-19 from a total of 2,400 students and teachers at 99 schools, new figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE) show.

The figures came after the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), said it will ballot for industrial action over concerns it has over the safety of staff.

It said it was taking the action in relation to a number of “key issues” which have emerged since schools reopened.

It said issues raised by its members include physical distancing in schools, provision of personal protective equipment, the definition of close contacts, testing and tracing turnaround times, provisions for teachers at high risk, and information technology resources.

In response to queries, a spokeswoman for the HSE said there are now 142 positive cases associated with a school setting.

“From the 99 schools that had mass tests, an additional 43 detected cases have been identified over and above original cases. Those detected were detected in 10 schools,” she said, adding that 2,400 students and teachers have been involved in mass testing.

‘Engage directly’

“When a case of Covid-19 is identified which is associated to an educational facility, public health professionals engage directly with the person, or family as appropriate, and ask them about their contacts,” she said.

“Recommended measures, including mass testing and any exclusions of other pupils or staff members, are made at this point. Responses and recommendations for each facility may well differ, depending on the circumstances identified by public health.”

Meanwhile, a Department of Education spokesman said it would “continue to engage with all education partners including ASTI in the coming months” following the threat of industrial action.

“The Department of Education engaged extensively with stakeholders in developing the plans for reopening, and very significant funding was secured and given to schools to ensure the implementation of the Return to Work Safely Protocol and the recommendations by public health authorities in providing a safe environment for the whole school community,” he said.

“The department has continuing engagement with the public health authorities on a weekly basis so that schools can remain open safely, and is working with stakeholders in this respect also.”

The spokesman added that “appropriate information and guidance for school leaders” has been provided by public health officials in the HSE and by the Department of Education.

“This is in line with the approach being adopted in other areas of the public sector including the health sector. A review process has been put in place where concerns remain.”

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