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INTO calls for 'political leadership' on bringing in antigen tests to primary schools

“Time is of the essence and we simply can’t afford any additional delays,” said INTO General Secretary John Boyle

Image: Shutterstock

THE INTO IS welcoming a decision today from the Department of Education to roll out rapid antigen testing for some primary schools. 

The issue was discussed this morning at a meeting between education stakeholders and officials from the Departments of Education and Public Health.

“Time is of the essence and we simply can’t afford any additional delays,” said INTO General Secretary John Boyle, in a statement. 

“Given the alarming infection rate amongst children of primary school age, antigen testing could become an important additional infection prevention and control measure in schools.”

Some 6,012 children aged 5-12 years of age tested positive for Covid-19 between 25 October and 7 November. 

“Political leadership is essential to ensure swift action on this front,” he said. 

Officials confirmed that Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan had asked for an urgent examination of antigen testing of close contacts in primary schools, following recently published ECDC guidance.

The Department of Education has indicated that detailed arrangements for the testing programme will be available soon.

Dr. Abigail Collins, the HSE’s child health lead, stressed the importance of anyone with Covid-19 symptoms staying away from schools and confirmed that her department will amplify this important message in the coming days.

The Department of Education also clarified that the existing guidelines on parent-teacher meetings, extra-curricular activities and school trips and events remain in place, and these events will not be in-person. 

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NPHET briefing

At an NPHET briefing this morning, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan said that there will not be “widespread” testing in schools, but guidelines are being drawn up to keep schools informed. 

It’s likely that the measure will instead be available for schools dealing with a certain number of cases. 

He compared it to the new approach, where close contacts of a confirmed case are sent antigen tests.

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