More Covid outbreaks in schools than any other public setting in second half of 2021 2 weeks ago

More Covid outbreaks in schools than any other public setting in second half of 2021

Schools reopened across the country on Thursday morning.

New data has revealed that there were more outbreaks of Covid-19 in school settings in Ireland than any other public setting across the second half of 2021.

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The latest Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) cluster report details the total number of outbreaks recorded between late June and late December.

514 of the 4,102 total are associated with school students and staff, representing the highest in a public setting during this time period.

The second highest number in a public setting applies to workplaces, with 458 outbreaks recorded.

In contrast, the overall highest number – 919 – is allocated to outbreaks in private household settings.

The data arrives alongside the reopening of schools across the country on Thursday (6 January), despite numerous calls to stagger the return.

Many schools have already reported high levels of absenteeism, both in staff and pupils.

Earlier this week, the Department of Education said there was "no public health rationale" to delay.

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Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan, meanwhile, stated that it is "inevitable" that children will contract Covid in the weeks ahead, though he pointed to household contacts as a likely source of transmission.

"As one of our key essential services – the education sector – prepares to restart in-person education this week, it is important that we continue to minimise, as much as we can, discretionary mixing indoors with people from other households," said Holohan.

"We saw a significant reduction in incidence of Covid-19 in primary school-going children through December.

"However, given the very high and rising incidence of Covid-19 across all age groups in the community, it is inevitable that children will pick up this infection from household contacts in the days and weeks ahead," Holohan continued.

"We also know, as a result, that there will be cases and outbreaks in schools and childcare settings."

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On Wednesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin stressed that "the needs of the child are paramount" ahead of the reopening of schools.

"We all know that it's been a societal goal, that children do their best when at school, and that is the motivation behind the decision to proceed with the school openings," he said.