Numbers of schoolchildren isolating 'probably unnecessary', says HSE chief

Numbers of schoolchildren isolating 'probably unnecessary', says HSE chief

THE CEO of the Health Service Executive has said that the number of schoolchildren isolating due to Covid-19 is 'probably unnecessary'.

Speaking on Newstalk's On the Record today, Paul Reid said there had been a surge in testing among 0-18-year-olds since schools reopened.

Around 45 per cent of tests this week came from that age group, despite it representing just 20 per cent of the population.

But with low positivity among the cohort, Reid admitted the rules stating a child must isolate for 14 days as a close contact, even if they don't exhibit symptoms. could be changed.

'Wider impact'

He said a balance must be sought between controlling the virus and ensuring children's wellbeing.

"There is no doubt that these are difficult considerations but certainly the impact it is having on children out of school where it is probably unnecessary, and the wider impact on their social development, has to be considered too," he told host Gavan Reilly.

"Certainly, the strong view from the public health teams is it is time to look at this policy now and Nphet (National Public Health Emergency Team) are doing that."

Nphet are to meet this week to consider the effects of isolation on children's welfare.

Testing pressure

There are around 12,000 children currently isolating in Ireland, following outbreaks in around 1,300 primary and early years settings and in 750 secondary schools.

However, positive cases among the 0-18 age group have fallen from the low teens to around 7 per cent, added Reid.

A relaxing of the rules for the age group could also ease the burden on testing facilities, which struggled to meet demand this week with walk-in testing suspended at several centres.

Figures released from the HSE today show that there are 1,346 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 315 patients in hospital.

Of those, 59 are in ICU.

Over 7million vaccines have been administered in total, with 92.5 per cent of over-18s having had the first dose.