Contact tracing of close contacts of COVID cases will end in primary school and childcare facilities from next Monday.
From September 27, the government is discontinuing both automatic COVID-19 contact tracing among primary school students, and testing of asymptomatic close contacts.
These measures apply to all primary school and childcare facilities, except for special education special education facilities.
In addition, children under 13 who are identified as a close contact in a non-household setting will no longer be required to restrict their movements if they don’t have symptoms, unless a public health team directs that they should.
However, if kids 13 or under are a close contact of someone in their household, they will still have to restrict their movements, even if they are asymptomatic, and anyone who shows symptoms will still be required to self-isolate.
They should not attend school or socialise with anyone until at least 48 hours after their symptoms are gone.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said “Throughout the pandemic, we have done our utmost to protect our school communities from the serious risks posed by COVID-19.”
“The latest data indicates that schools continue to be a low-risk environment for transmission of COVID-19. As such, I am happy to be in a position today to announce these significant updates to contact tracing in our school environments.”
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has said that there were 90 outbreaks linked to 412 COVID cases in schools last week up to Saturday.
The Irish National Teachers Union has said that this move should be deferred until more reliable data on outbreaks in schools is available.
The union said in a statement today that this move could result in “mass confusion” among school principals, staff, parents and children.
“The INTO is particularly concerned, given that it was acknowledged by the Department of Education today that there was a deficiency in the data obtained from mass testing in primary schools but were still proceeding to change COVID protection measures.”
The union also stated that there is a “disparity” between HSE figures showing more than four thousand cases among children aged 5 – 12 in the past two weeks, and the smaller weekly numbers of school cases reported by the HPSC.
Any changes to contact tracing and close contact policies should be deferred to November 1 when schools come back from the mid-term break, the INTO argues.