COVID IN SCHOOLS: Review finds almost 70 outbreaks where it is likely the virus spread within school

Staff rooms a key risk for spread of Covid-19 in schools, health officials warn

By Carl O’Brien 

Teacher staff rooms and school break times are an area of concern for the potential spread of Covid-19, according to a mid-term review of schools compiled by public health authorities in the Irish Republic.

Overall, the review found schools remain safe with very limited evidence of transmission of the virus.

The report found the proportion of close contacts of pupils or staff who tested positive remained low, despite high levels of community transmission across Ireland, particularly in Dublin, during October.

However, in a series of recommendations, it says the support of education partners will be key to minimising close contacts in staff rooms and at break times.

The report says friendship circles, lunchtime activities, break time activities and supervision have been “highlighted as areas where close contacts have often been identified”.

In addition, it says staff rooms have “not infrequently” been highlighted as an area of concern for potential for infection transmission, resulting in a significant number of staff members being identified as close contacts.

The unpublished midterm report was completed at the end of last month for the HSE’s office of the clinical director of health protection.

It concludes that schools should remain open and that it is important that there is no laxity or slippage in health precautions.

It also notes that the support of public health authorities to support schools was “severely challenged” due to the second wave of cases before the midterm break.

Additional supports have subsequently been added with the redeployment of staff from the Department of Education’s inspectorate.

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