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Concerning Number of Covid outbreaks in schools rises sharply as one cluster linked to 19 cases

Five of the outbreaks were in the HSE mid-west region, with three in the north-west while none was recorded for the south east

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The number of Covid outbreaks in schools shot up last week.

There were 15 new outbreaks in the week up to Saturday, October 16, according to figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (Hpsc).

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That’s up from three the week before. 

Five of the outbreaks were in the HSE mid-west region, with three in the north-west while none was recorded for the south east.

There were 80 confirmed cases linked to the outbreaks and, in one primary school, 19 confirmed cases.

An outbreak is where at least two cases of Covid are confirmed in a setting, although it does not mean that transmission occurred on site.

Six of the school outbreaks were at primary, seven in special education, one in post-primary school and one in a location that was not specified.

Meanwhile, there was one outbreak associated with a third-level college, in the HSE south region.

The rise in Covid cases nationally has raised anxiety levels in education settings, and closed at least one school this week, and another temporarily before the Department of Education instructed it to re-open.

Principals are also concerned about difficulties finding substitutes to cover for teacher absences, at a time when staff are told not to attend for work if they have Covid-like symptoms.

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A meeting is taking place today, involving teacher unions and representatives of school principals and managers, and officials from the Department of Education and Public Health to discuss the various concerns.

Primary school representative view as premature a decision to withdraw certain public health supports from primary schools, such as routine public health risk assessments, testing and contact tracing, at the end of September. They are seeking their reinstatement.

They are also seeking the reintroduction of another measure, also withdrawn at the end of September, which allowed schools to redeploy a special education teacher to a mainstream class if the class teacher was absent.

While schools close tomorrow for mid-term break, Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (Into) general secretary John Boyle said they wanted plans “for safeguarding schools from Halloween to Christmas”.

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