Cork principals demand free antigen testing for teachers amid rising number of Covid-19 cases


Cork PRIMARY school principals have called on the government to provide free antigen testing to teachers amid rising numbers of Covid-19 cases.

On Thursday, the government confirmed arrangements for a new asymptomatic close contact antigen testing system in primary schools set up by the HSE.

However, the published document announcing the plan does not refer to teachers.

Antigen tests will be made available to children in an elementary school module, where a child in the module has undergone a PCR test which has detected Covid-19.

When two or more confirmed cases of Covid-19 occur in a class within a seven-day period outside of a single capsule, antigen testing will be offered to the whole class.

The tests will be sent to the parents of the children by the HSE.

Parents or guardians of an elementary school child, who has been confirmed to have Covid-19 following a PCR test, are encouraged to notify their school principal.

The school principal will then inform the parents of the other children in the group of a confirmed case.

No personal data of the child will be shared.

These parents will have the option of receiving free antigen tests for their child, which they can order for delivery to their home.

It is not mandatory for children to participate in antigen testing.

Children who are in a pod where a child has tested positive for Covid-19 can continue to attend school, whether or not they participate in antigen testing, as long as they are symptom-free of Covid-19.

“LONG LATE”

Scoil Director Padre Pio in Churchfield, Ken Foley, said the initiative, while flawed, was “long overdue.”

“We have been asking for it for a long time with the Department.

“We will see how it goes over the next few weeks and I hope this helps to keep it going to some extent. [Covid-19] outside, ”he said.

“The biggest problem I have with this is that the staff is not referenced and staff absences are becoming a huge problem right now.

“Like most schools, we’re running out of steam trying to get subs and shelter – luckily we’ve been able to stay open,” he added.

Mr Foley described the deterioration of the Covid situation in schools.

“Every day there are cases in our school – there are cases in every school.

“The secretary is taking calls at a breakneck pace,” he said.

“[Covid] coupled with the normal respiratory illnesses that occur – it’s a very difficult situation for all of us, ”he added.

Mr Foley called for free antigen testing to be made available to teachers and that consideration be given to prioritizing booster vaccines for teachers due to exposure to unvaccinated children.

This was echoed by Kieran Kelly, principal of the Togher National Boys’ School, who said that by prioritizing booster vaccines for teachers, the government would demonstrate its commitment to education in a meaningful way.

“I think the staff should be given reminders.

“They [Government] have said repeatedly how important children’s education is and how important it is to keep schools open.

“It would prove that they really prioritize primary school children and their education.

“They have to show that they want to take care of the staff,” he said.

Mr Kelly said the school itself has purchased antigen tests which are available to teachers to give them “peace of mind” in the face of the increasing number of cases, but this has was a costly initiative for the school.

“There is nervousness there and certainly in the last few weeks because of the rising numbers. Stress levels are on the rise among staff, ”he said.

HONESTY OF PARENTS

Speaking about the government’s new antigen testing system, Kelly said relying on a parent to notify the school of a positive case is problematic.

“This is obviously the biggest problem – it has always been a problem.

“In all honesty the parents have been great, but it’s a huge problem that you are once again relying on the honesty of the parents and the goodwill of the parents to tell you that,” he said.

Mr Kelly said he would also prefer the antigen tests to be given directly to schools for them to issue rather than parents having to order them.

“We kind of thought that they could send antigen tests to schools and that if there was a positive case, you could tell families to do an antigen test and it would be instantaneous”, a- he declared.

The education ministry said information material for parents will be shared with schools and made public directly to parents early next week.

The program will start no later than November 29.


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