INTO calls for return of schools Covid testing and masks wearing for young kids
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has called for a return of Covid testing and tracing in primary schools – and has also said they want an urgent rethink on the use of face coverings by young pupils, as cases of Covid-19 virus infections are surging across the country again.
It has only been a month since the involvement of public health teams in primary schools was scaled back, something which was done in light of high levels of vaccination and indications that the spread of Covid was declining. The move was at the time opposed heavily by INTO, and today, especially in light of a primary school in Wexford had to close until after midterm as more than 30 students had tested positive for Covid-19, they are keen to point out the decision to end contact tracing in school had been premature.
Today INTO declared they are seeking to reintroduce a range of measures in schools to keep students and teachers safe.
In a strongly-worded statement, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said: “now is the time to raise our shield once more to protect our schools. It is not a sustainable position to expect our schools to operate as normal when infection levels in our communities continue to spiral.”
The union said last month’s change in policy was informed by a view “that further relaxation of public-health measures was on the cards”.
It added: “That is now far from clear with Dr Ronan Glynn and other leading public health experts openly raising alarm in recent days.”
What INTO wants:
- The immediate reintroduction of public-health risk assessments, testing and contact tracing in primary schools.
- The commencement of the school’s pilot scheme for antigen testing, recommended in April 2021.
- An urgent review of the age restriction on the use of face coverings.
The union also says it is “extremely concerned that no weekly school mass testing report has been published since October 4" and that current infection control and prevention measures, including the pods and bubbles and the wearing of facemasks by staff must remain in place beyond Halloween.
“The failure to produce this report at a time when positive cases among five-to 12-year-old children has remained consistently high, has added to the level of concern and anxiety in school communities.
“Despite the fact that outbreaks have continued to occur in schools throughout October, boards of management and school leaders have been stripped of invaluable public-health support.”