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covid chaos HSE's Paul Reid says schools shouldn’t close early for Christmas after Kerry outbreak

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HSE CEO Paul Reid said he doesn't see the need to close schools early for Christmas

HSE CEO Paul Reid said he doesn't see the need to close schools early for Christmas

HSE CEO Paul Reid said he doesn't see the need to close schools early for Christmas

HSE CEO Paul Reid said he doesn’t believe all schools should close from tomorrow until after the Christmas break due to the outbreak in Scoil Mhuire Killorglin.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, he said: “No, I don’t think so, I think what we have seen since the schools resumed in September and we have seen this through our testing that has been going on is the positivity rate has been just below 3pc of positivity (in schools) and that’s in comparison of the community testing which is about 12pc of contacts.

“So, there’s a lower transmission level, and we all know schools are important for our children for their education and wellbeing.

“I think the success of it is how we’ve got through this period since September. A minor number of schools have closed.”

THE threat posed to Christmas celebrations by Covid-19 was brought home last night as nearly 400 children and teachers were told to restrict their movements until December 30.

With just under a week to go until most schools break for the holidays, Ireland has experienced its first major outbreak of the virus in an educational setting.

Health officials have ordered that all pupils and staff at a school in the constituency of Education Minister Norma Foley be tested for Covid. They have also been told to stay at home for two weeks, including Christmas Day.The development is likely to be careful watched school principals and parents around the country.In recent days the Department of Education resisted attempts by a number of schools to close in order to reduce the risk of infection ahead of next week’s break.

A total of 17 cases have so far been detected at Scoil Mhuire Killorglin, a mixed primary school of 386 pupils have been recorded so far “and contact tracing is ongoing” according to the HSE.

Local TD Michael Healy Rae said that this incident should act as a wake up call.

“It brings home how careful we have to be. This will make us buck up and realise things are not normal,” he told the Irish Independent.

In a letter to parents, the Department of Public Health said it “has been uncommon to see an outbreak of this scale among a school population” in Ireland so far.

School management had implemented and continued to implement appropriate Covid control measures. And cases and close contacts have been isolating.

“Following further review today, based on current evidence the decision has been taken to extend testing to the remainder of the school population, (children and staff),” the letter states.

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Any child not previously identified as a case or a close contact is now advised to restrict their movements until Wednesday, December 30,” the letter advises. The children are being referred for two tests, a number of days apart, by the HSE.

Restricted movement means “the child does not go to school”, the letter says.

They are also to stay away from older people and not have visitors in homes.

In a statement last night, the HSE confirmed that parents of children at a school in the south of the country have been told that their children should not attend school, a decision made after a “public health risk assessment of the school”

The spokesperson confirmed that both staff and students have been asked to restrict their movements up until December 30.

The spokesperson said that when a coronavirus case is identified, public health engages in contact tracing.

“Public Health professionals will also discuss the matter directly with the educational facility if deemed necessary, undertaking a public health risk assessment. Recommended measures, including mass testing and any exclusions of other pupils or staff members, or closures are made at this point. Responses and recommendations for each facility may well differ, depending on the circumstances identified by public health.”

Meanwhile, in a statement, the Department of Educations said that it does not comment on individual cases.

It said that according to public health guidelines, when a case is identified in a school, contact is made with the school and risk assessment is carried out, which “takes into account all of the evidence in relation to the particular circumstances of the school and the advice provided is based on this.”

The school then must follow public health advice and close if they must. “While the Department understands that schools and principals have been working tirelessly through these unprecedented times, it is important that the advice and expertise of public health leads decisions about closure and other measures schools need to take,” said the spokesperson.

“Schools will close for the Christmas holidays on Tuesday 22 December and will remain closed until 6 January.”

Elsewhere, Claremorris Boys National School in Mayo had 16 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the last three weeks.

However, while principal Mark Loftus and the board of management decided to close the school and switch to online learning last Friday, the Department of Education overruled the decision and directed the school to remain open.

Meanwhile, a special Cabinet meeting has been scheduled for December 29 in light of the steadily growing number of coronavirus cases.

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