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Safety concerns Schools spent up to €300k on sanitiser which was recalled after safety alert


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Education minister Norma Foley, whose department has said schools will be funded for new sanitisers

Education minister Norma Foley, whose department has said schools will be funded for new sanitisers

Education minister Norma Foley, whose department has said schools will be funded for new sanitisers

Up to €300,000 was spent by schools on a hand sanitiser product that later had to be recalled after a safety alert.

And while it is expected that refunds will be issued to the schools involved, the Department of Education said it's not possible to estimate the value of these returns.

Some schools had to close briefly last month after the Virapro hand sanitiser was withdrawn due to safety concerns.

The Department of Agriculture ordered a recall warning that the prolonged use of the product - Virapro Hand Sanitiser (PCS 100409) - may cause dermatitis, eye irritation, upper respiratory system irritation and headaches.

Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy asked Education Minister Norma Foley how much had been spent on hand sanitisation products that later had to be recalled and whether the expenditure would be recouped from the sellers.

Ms Foley said the Department of Agriculture removed Virapro hand sanitser from the product register on October 22, and that schools were advised to cease all use of the Virapro products.

She said that based on data supplied by Maxxcare, the supplier of Virapro, it's estimated that 10pc of schools have been supplied with the product.

Ms Foley said the total value of the product supplied is estimated to be between €200,000 and €300,000.

She did not provide any information on how much of the expenditure is expected to be recouped.

Ms Foley said the expected value of the product to be recalled is lower given that some of the hand sanitiser would have been used since it was purchased.

She promised that her Department will continue to monitor the situation and to provide an update when it was available.

The Herald asked about the status of any refund requests made. A Department of Education spokesperson said that the standard recall process is being followed and is being managed by the regulator.

"The Department expects refunds for products returned to issue to the schools that purchased these products as part of this process but information related to those returns is not available currently," the spokesperson said.

"It is not possible to estimate the value of these returns as the quantity of product purchased directly by the schools is unknown."

When the concerns were first raised, the Department of Education asked all schools to check whether they had stocks of the Virapro product.

If a school that was affected judged it necessary to do so, they could choose to close for the day or to close early.

Additional funding was promised to schools to enable them to purchase the necessary alternative supplies.

The recall is just one issue facing schools due to the pandemic. The Teachers' Union of Ireland has called for early Christmas holidays as a morale booster and to allow a longer lead-in time for pupils and teachers to restrict movements before potentially meeting elderly or vulnerable relatives at Christmas.

However, the Department of Education insisted that there is no question of schools closing early for Christmas, unless public health advice changes.

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