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'There is a lot of panic': Health officials meet parents of children who attend school shut over Covid-19 case

A school in Dublin today began a two-week closing period after a pupil was diagnosed with Covid-19.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Lincoln Beddoe

HEALTH OFFICIALS HAVE met with parents of children who attend the same school as a male student who has Covid-19 – the first confirmed case in the Republic of Ireland.

The meeting took place this evening, following a separate meeting with local councillors.

The male in question had recently returned from northern Italy, which has seen a large number of Covid-19 cases. 

He is a student at Scoil Chaitríona in Glasnevin, Dublin 9. The school today began a two-week closing period as a precautionary measure.

Health officials had already contacted the principal, staff, and parents or guardians of pupils, and this evening held a meeting to address their concerns in person.

Speaking following the meeting between local councillors and HSE officials, independent councillor Noeleen Reilly said she hoped the meeting with parents would help to ease the “panic” and “confusion” in the area.

The Department of Health and HSE decided not to name the school in question, citing confidentiality concerns, but the name quickly circulated on social media and became public.

Reilly said the decision not to name the school was “a mistake” as it resulted in more speculation and confusion.

“I completely understand why we wouldn’t do anything to identify any individual student but, in terms of the school, it’s the worst kept secret around,” Reilly told TheJournal.ie.

However, she noted that some councillors agree with the decision to not name the school.

Reilly called for “very clear” information to be given to parents and local residents “to reassure the public as much as possible”.

“There is a lot of concern, there is a lot of panic in the area, people are over-panicking because of a lack of information,” she added.  

Reilly said that while people should remain cognisant of the seriousness of the virus, it’s “important not to create mass hysteria”, noting most people who contract it are likely to recover.

‘Limit social interactions’

The department this evening confirmed that a letter from Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan to parents of all school children, across the country, was issued today. 

Part of this letter states: 

“The decision to close the school for 14 days is a precautionary one and arises because pupils and teachers may have had direct contact with the confirmed case.

However, siblings not attending the school concerned, parents and other members of the community are not regarded as contacts and can continue their daily routines as normal.

Holohan earlier told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that staff and pupils at the school have been asked to “limit social interactions” as much as possible.

He said the risk of transmission of the virus “will still be low” and reassured people that the HSE has measures in place if further people fall ill from the virus.

Holohan added that “the vast majority” of those who have contracted Covid-19 abroad, “in particular children”, have a mild infection and recover completely.

Globally, the death toll from Covid-19 has now surpassed 3,000 after dozens more recently died at the epicentre of the virus in China.

The virus has now infected more than 88,000 people and spread to over 60 countries after first emerging in China late last year.

HSE advice

The HSE has said the risk of catching Covid-19 in Ireland is still low but “this may change”. Most people may continue to go to work, school and other public places, as usual.

Anyone who knows they have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days and has symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, fever) should:

  • isolate themselves from other people – this means going into a different, well-ventilated room, with a phone
  • phone their GP, or emergency department – if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999
  • in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999

Close contact means either:

  • face-to-face contact
  • spending more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of an infected person
  • living in the same house as an infected person

If you have these symptoms and have been in an affected area or in contact with a confirmed case, read this advice.

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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