Decline in calls from principals to Covid-19 helpline

More than 3,000 children and teenagers tested positive for virus in the past week

HSE  figures show there were about 100 calls to the helpline on Friday, down from the 301 calls from principals the previous day. Photograph: iStock

HSE figures show there were about 100 calls to the helpline on Friday, down from the 301 calls from principals the previous day. Photograph: iStock

 

There was a drop-off in the number of calls on Friday to the Covid-19 helpline for school principals seeking public health advice on cases and close contacts among students.

Health Service Executive figures show there were 215 calls to the helpline on Friday, down from the 301 calls from principals the previous day as schools sought advice amid a higher level of cases.

There were 3,398 positive cases on 46,929 tests carried out on children and teenagers up to the age of 17 over the week to Thursday, HSE data shows.

This amounts to a positivity rate of 7 per cent, down from 13 per cent last week.

Unvaccinated primary school children accounted for the highest number of children being tested with 27,307 in the 4-12 age group being tested, followed by 11,409 in the 0-3 age group and 8,213 in the 13-17 age group.

The high number of close contacts of infected schoolchildren is estimated to have kept more than 10,000 children out of school over the past week as primary school children have an average of seven close contacts each.

The school principals’ helpline was provided with extra resources this week after long delays were reported in hearing back from public health teams with advice on cases.

School principals were reassured by HSE officials on Thursday that there was a four-to-seven day incubation period for close contacts allowing for a calmer and more orderly response.

Monday was the busiest day for the helpline with 336 calls from school principals seeking advice on how to manage new infections in classes and their close contacts.

There were 183 calls on Tuesday and 207 calls on Wednesday.

‘Trending downwards’

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said hospitalisations were “trending downwards” and the overall percentage of people testing positive for the virus was “reducing” but there were “high volumes in schools still”.

HSE officials have said the transmissibility of the virus appears no different to the last school year and that the volume of tests is down to the higher number of cases in the community.

There were a further 1,620 cases of Covid-19 reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), showing a seven-day average of 1,422, down 12 per cent on the previous week.

There were 328 people in hospital with Covid-19, down three from the previous day, and 59 people in intensive care, up five from the previous day.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said “two major milestones” were reached in the Government’s vaccination programme: 90 per cent of adults over 18 are now fully vaccinated and seven million Covid-19 vaccines would be administered by the end of Friday.

The latest data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre showed the 14-day incidence rate was 442 cases per 100,000 people with Border counties Monaghan, Donegal and Cavan reporting the highest number of cases.