School protocol when a case of coronavirus is confirmed

By Aideen O'Flaherty

AS three local schools, namely Holy Family National School in Rathcoole, Lucan Community National School and St Thomas’ Junior National School in Lucan, have confirmed cases of coronavirus within their schools, The Echo is taking a look at the HSE’s protocol when a case is confirmed in a school.

A spokesperson for the HSE told The Echo that when a case is confirmed in a school, public health officials enter into a dialogue with the person, or their family if appropriate, who tested positive to ascertain who their recent contacts were.

holy family 1

Holy Family in Rathcoole was one of the first schools confirmed with a case

If the child becomes ill in school, they’re to be moved to a place that is planned for isolation, and the child’s parents or guardians should be called to collect their child as soon as possible.

If a member of staff has helped a pupil with symptoms, they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves or unless they are subsequently advised to do so by public health.

Public health officials will also discuss the matter directly with the school, and they undertake a public health risk assessment of the education facility.

The spokesperson added: “Recommended measures, including any exclusions of other pupils or staff members, are made at this point. 

“Responses and recommendations for each facility may well differ, depending on the circumstances identified by public health.”

The HSE’s Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare Settings During the Covid-19 Pandemic document outlines how public health staff will also be in contact individually with anyone who has been in close contact with the confirmed case.

The public health staff will provide these contacts with appropriate advice regarding testing and restriction of their movement to reduce the spread of infection, while the confirmed case will have to self-isolate for 14 days, and their close contacts will have to restrict their movements during that time.

On their child’s return to school after absence, parents are required to fill in a Return to Childcare Setting Parental Declaration Form, where the parents or guardians confirm that they have no reason to believe their child has infectious disease, and they have followed all medical and public health guidance with respect to exclusion of their child from childcare services.

Independent councillor Mick Duff, who is the chairperson of the Boards of Management for Tallaght Community School, Mount Seskin Community College and Killinarden Community School, said: “I think the HSE is taking a sensible approach.

“It’s seems that they’re doing this on a case-by-case, individual basis and to assess whether there’s further risk.

“It’s an inexact science at the moment, but a monumental effort has been made by schools to keep the schools safe and to have their pupils in a safe environment.”

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