Sharp fall in Covid-19 outbreaks reported in schools

Five school outbreaks last week, down from 14 the previous week and 44 a week earlier

Covid signage in Merrion Square  in Dublin’s city centre.Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Covid signage in Merrion Square in Dublin’s city centre.Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Covid-19 outbreaks in schools fell sharply last week despite the return of remaining classes to formal education settings.

The number of school outbreaks notified last week was five, down from 14 the previous week and 44 a week earlier.

Only two of these outbreaks dated from April, according to the figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Health officials have said transmission of the virus in schools remains low despite the return of many students, but have warned the resumption of in-person teaching for the remaining classes earlier this month may lead to an uptick in cases.

Outbreaks in childcare facilities have increased marginally, from 10 to 11 last week.

Of 14 outbreaks last week among at-risk groups, 10 were in the Traveller community, and these involved 85 cases.

Almost 3,500 travellers have tested positive for the virus in the third wave and there have been eight deaths.

No university or college related outbreaks were recorded last week, for the fifth week in a row. Most third level institutions are shut but some practical classes are continuing and some students remain on campus.

There was also a slight increase in workplace outbreaks, from 15 to 16. This included seven outbreaks in commercial premises, and three apiece in the construction and food/beverage sectors. No outbreaks were notified in the meat industry.

There were 151 outbreaks in family households, down 38 on the previous week.

A total of 252 clusters were reported last week, down by 76 on the previous week. Some 31 of these were late notifications that dated from earlier months.

This is the fourth week in a row that the total number of outbreaks has fallen, with figures now at levels not seen since last summer.

There was one outbreak in a nursing home, involving two cases, after no outbreaks were recorded in this setting the previous week.

Hospitals recorded five outbreaks, the same as in the previous week. These clusters involved nine cases.

There were no outbreaks in mental health units, Tusla centres, centres for disabilities and other residential facilities.

Serial testing

Meanwhile, serial testing in nursing homes and other congregated settings is to be discontinued where most staff and residents are vaccinated and there are no open outbreaks, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has decided.

General serial testing can stop where a long-term residential care facility can confirm 80 per cent of staff and residents are at least two weeks post their second dose, no cases were detected in the last round of testing and there are no open outbreaks, according to deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn.

Standardised implementation of these criteria for nursing homes and then other centres is to proceed following engagement by the HSE with the operator of the facilities, Dr Glynn told Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly in a newly published letter.

The positivity rate in serial testing of nursing home staff has fallen to 0.1 per cent - a level last experienced in July - from a high of 2.3 per cent in January at the peak of the third wave.

The epidemiological situation remains “concerning but improving,” Dr Glynn says in the April 15th letter.

“While there is strong evidence of the protective effect of vaccination in those vaccinated, a large proportion of the population is not protected. As such, the epidemiological situation remains volatile and high-risk.”