Covid-19 rates in schools low during first week back

No new outbreaks of the disease reported in schools during the first week of March

An outbreak is defined as two or more cases occurring. Photograph: Getty Images

An outbreak is defined as two or more cases occurring. Photograph: Getty Images


and CARL O’BRIEN There were no new Covid-19 outbreaks in schools reported during the first week of them being reopened, and the positivity rate in mass testing of staff and pupils remained low.

The latest weekly statistics on outbreaks of the disease showed no new school outbreaks during the week to Saturday, March 6th, after schools reopened the previous Monday.

An outbreak is defined as two or more cases, and remains open until 28 days have passed without a new infection being detected.

There were three outbreaks associated with schools reported during the previous week. Schools for students with special educational needs partially reopened in the first half of February.

In separate data from the HSE’s weekly Covid-19 mass testing report for schools for the same week, the positivity rate for Covid-19 was low at just 1.1 per cent.

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

The data covers the first week in March when primary schools reopened to junior classes and secondary schools reopened to sixth-year students for the first time this year since the third lockdown.

The HSE report shows there were 34 cases of Covid-19 detected in schools during that period. Of these cases, most were at primary level (17), followed by second level (10) and special schools (7).

These positive cases resulted in the mass testing of 529 close contacts of which six tested positive for Covid-19, a positivity rate of 1.1 per cent.

The positivity rates were highest at primary (1.4 per cent), followed by special education (0.9 per cent) and secondary (0.7 per cent).

In the childcare sector, which has been open on a limited basis since the start of the year, positivity rates are 10.7 per cent for the period January 4th to March 6th.

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

A contact tracing source cautioned that the full impact of infections during the first week of schools reopening will not be known until close contacts have had their “day 10” Covid-19 test. Until then, it will not be known whether there were outbreaks with two or more linked cases during the first week.

The HSE report also shows the number of Covid-19 cases identified in the wider community during February 28th to March 6th

It shows there were 344 cases among 5-12-year-olds and 276 cases among 13-18-year-olds, or 0.1 per cent of the child population.

Third-level students

At third level there was a sharp decline in the new outbreaks reported in student houses and from social gatherings of students, falling to 15 during the week to March 6th from 61 the previous week.

The biggest increase in new outbreaks was in family households, with 259 new outbreaks being reported, up from 131 the previous week.

There were 23 fewer community outbreaks, and 17 fewer workplace outbreaks during the week.

The benefit of the Covid-19 vaccination rollout continues to be seen in hospitals and nursing homes.

The number of new outbreaks in hospitals fell to just five from 21 a week earlier, with less than five cases linked to new outbreaks notified, compared with 16 the previous week.

There were just three new outbreaks in nursing homes, half the previous week – down from 44 new nursing home outbreaks reported during the weekly peak of the third wave in the first half of January.

The number of Covid-19 cases linked to new nursing home outbreaks has also declined, to 17 from 93 the previous week. The number of deaths linked to nursing home outbreaks during the third wave has risen to 844 from 816 a week earlier.