Children who have more uncommon symptoms associated with the delta variant of Covid -19 should not attend school when they resume from this coming week, one of the main trade unions representing teachers has said.
John Boyle, general secretary of the primary school teachers' union, INTO, said on Sunday that following representations to the Department of Education the Covid-19 response plan had been tweaked to include uncommon symptoms associated with the delta variant of the virus.
Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme Mr Boyle said it was a very important message for parents that children experiencing such uncommon symptoms associated with the delta variant could not attend school.
“Children can have sore throats, headaches, runny or stuffy nose. They can be feeling sick or vomiting (or have) diarrhoea. Up until the summer children could go to school with those symptoms.”
“You cannot now go if you have any of those uncommon symptoms or the common symptoms ( more usually associated with Covid-19).”
He said this was really important as the biggest worry teachers had was that their school could have to go back to remote learning.
Mr Boyle also said that his members found it incongruous that they had to deal with two pieces of competing public health advice.
He said on the one hand the people were told to get a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible. However he said on the other hand a small group of workers - the immuno- compromised and those in early stages of pregnancy - were being told it was safe to go back to work for a couple of months and that they would get their vaccine in a couple of months and it was worth taking the risk.
Mr Boyle said his union had been urging the Department of Education to set up a hotline where they could seek re-assurance from public health experts.
He said the INTO had also asked the Department of Education that this group of workers should continue to work remotely for the number of weeks involved.
“It is a very much declining number of workers. It is not like before the summer where every pregnant teacher was allowed to stay off.”
Mr Boyle said the first batch of carbon dioxide monitors for air quality were scheduled to arrive in schools early this week with more available in early September.
“We have some concerns that not every teaching zone or public zone (in schools) will have its own monitor. They will be shared out.”
However he said the union had received assurances that in the case of larger schools, if they had insufficient monitors, more could be ordered through the Department of Education in September.
He said if additional measures were required the Department of Education would invest in either filtration systems or other remedial work, potentially over the Halloween break.