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NPHET says a school won't necessarily close if it has a case or cases of Covid-19

Guidance is also being prepared for parents if they think their child has a respiratory illness.

Dr Siobhan Ni Bhriain, Integrated Care Lead at the HSE.
Dr Siobhan Ni Bhriain, Integrated Care Lead at the HSE.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

ACTING CHIEF MEDICAL officer Dr Ronan Glynn has said health officials would hope to avoid the closure of a school should it have a confirmed case of Covid-19 when schools reopen.

The government this evening published a detailed roadmap on how schools across the country would reopen at the end of August.

In the 51 page document, the Department of Education notes that a school would close should there be “clear public health advice from HSE” to do so. 

Asked this evening if there was a particular number of cases within a school setting that would necessitate its closure, Glynn said it “entirely depends” on the context within the school, adding: “there is no one size fits all answer”. 

“Obviously if you have lots of cases in a facility across lots of different classes, the answer there is very straightforward and obviously you’d close the facility. As you would close any facility that had multiple cases across multiple settings within a facility,” he said. 

I’d like to think that the response can be more nuanced than that. Essentially that’s what our public health doctors do in all settings, they go in and look at the case or cases, they look at where they’ve been, they look at the number of contacts, the duration of contact, and they make decisions based on those risk assessments.

Glynn said that restricting different classes from interacting with one another is key and that this could hopefully prevent an entire school closure. 

“As much as possible classes shouldn’t mix and the reason for that is, if there is a case or cases in a class, if other classes haven’t come into contact or other students haven’t come into contact with that class, then hopefully we can limit the impact to the class or classes, and thereby avoid closure of a facility,” he said. 

Glynn described it as “reassuring” that the vast majority of children who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 have “had an uncomplicated course and have recovered”. 

“But again, that is not to say that there is zero risk,” he added.

HEALTH 302 Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Glynn said there have been no Covid-19 clusters in creches since they reopened but that it “won’t be surprising” if there is and that this applies to schools also. 

“That’s not to say that anything that those facilities or parents are doing has been in any way incorrect, it’s just a part of living with a highly transmissible, highly infectious disease,” he said.

Minimising the risk

Within the schools roadmap, parents and teachers are being told that it is “critical that people stay at home if unwell”.

“Nobody should go to school if they are unwell or any members of their household are unwell with symptoms consistent with Covid-19,” the guidance states. 

Asked this evening if there was a specific bar for a child being unwell that means they should stay at home, the HSE’s Integrated Care Lead Dr Siobhan Ni Bhriain said she expected guidance to be published on that this week. 

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Ni Bhriain said that, even if a parent thinks their child has a head cold, they should seek the opinion of a GP.

“We’re working on that particular bit of advice at the moment and we’re going to have criteria for that hopefully by the end of the week, on how parents, schools and children can manage those particular issues of common respiratory illness in children,” she said. 

“We’ve always advised parents to be vigilant if your child gets sick. What to do, to give them Calpol to get their temperature down.

“But in this instance we say, if your child is sick if you’ve concerns about a respiratory illness, do make contact with your GP who can advise you on how suitable testing is for your child, and what to do.

“So even if the child doesn’t have Covid, or you think it’s an ordinary head cold, it’s important to make contact with your doctor, just to get that particular bit of advice.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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