Covid-19 : Positive cases detected in more than 100 schools last week

Positivity rate among staff and students climbs from 1.1 per cent to 2.4 per cent

 The HSE’s weekly Covid-19 mass testing report for schools  shows positive cases were detected in 108 schools.   Photograph: David Sleator

The HSE’s weekly Covid-19 mass testing report for schools shows positive cases were detected in 108 schools. Photograph: David Sleator

 

The number of schools where positive cases of Covid-19 were detected among pupils or staff has tripled over the space of a week, latest figures show.

The HSE’s weekly Covid-19 mass testing report for schools – which covers the period from March 7th to March 13th – shows positive cases were detected in 108 schools.

This is up from 34 schools during the first week in March, when schools reopened to junior classes and secondary schools reopened to sixth-year students.

The HSE report shows the positivity rate among students and staff who were mass tested last week on foot of these cases was 2.4 per cent, up from 1.1 per cent the previous week.

This is still below the positivity rate for the wider community which least figures show stands at 3.8 per cent.

Positivity rates are considered by public health experts as a key indicator for the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

A breakdown of the weekly mass testing figures in schools show positivity rates were highest in primary schools (2.8 per cent), followed by special schools (2.5 per cent) and secondary schools (1.4 per cent),.

The report also show that the positivity rates for the childcare sector last week were 11.3 per cent.

Positivity rates are typically higher in the childcare sector, where physical distancing is more challenging.

Positive Covid-19 cases were detected in a total of 35 childcare facilities, which resulted in the mass testing of 551 staff and children. This resulted in the detection of 62 further cases.

Controversy

There has been controversy across the wider education system, meanwhile, over the fact that some frontline education staff working with vulnerable children have been prioritised over others for vaccination.

Staff employed by Tusla such as education and welfare officers and staff in school projects have been vaccinated in many cases.

Yet homeschool community liaison officers – who visit the homes of vulnerable families – have not, and there is no clarity when they will be vaccinated.

Tusla declined to comment on why this was the case, but correspondence seen by The Irish Times shows it reached agreement with the HSE to vaccinate its own staff as a priority; homeschool liaison officers are employed by school boards.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic Tusla has been proactive in planning and preparing for, and enabling staff to continue frontline work. Our work is determined by the Government as an essential service,” it said in a statement.

“As part of this work we have liaised with the HSE regarding vaccination and are working with them in relation to our frontline staff to be vaccinated in accordance with their protocols and parameters. To be fair to the HSE and all other stakeholders it would not be appropriate for us to comment on vaccination plans for other public sector workers.”

Teachers and special needs assistants, meanwhile, have been told they will be among the first third of the population to be vaccinated but there is still no date on when this will commence.