PRIMARY SCHOOL children who have come into contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 but have no symptoms will no longer have to isolate or get tested from today.
The automatic contact tracing of close contacts will also cease from today.
Previously, primary school children were required to restrict their movements, absent themselves from school and get tested if they developed symptoms.
It is understood that the Government’s scientific advisors do not deem school children to be a significant enough threat at this stage in the pandemic to justify the measures.
While Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he understands that some people will be anxious about the change, he pointed to promising data from schools, where rates of Covid-19 are stable or in decline, to reassure the public.
Mr Donnelly said: “The latest data indicates that schools continue to be a low-risk environment for transmission of Covid-19.
“If you have any concerns or notice symptoms in members of your family, the public health advice remains to self-isolate and arrange a test as soon as possible. You should not attend school, or work or socialise”.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation has criticised the move, and the trade union has called for the changes to be postponed until a more reliable picture of the situation at primary schools can be gleaned from the available data.
National clinical director of health protection in the HSE, Dr John Cuddihy, said the “investigation of cases identified in school settings suggest that child to child transmission in schools is uncommon and not the primary cause of Sars-CoV-2 infection in children, particularly in preschool and primary schools”.
“Children are rarely identified as the route of transmission of infection in to the household setting and children are not more likely than adults to spread infection to others”, he said.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said health officials were “reassured that that the reopening of schools has not led to an increase in transmission of Covid-19 amongst school-going children or more widely across the population".
“As always, we will keep disease transmission in the population under review, but given the importance of education for our children we feel that now is the right time to evolve our approach to the public health management of Covid-19 in educational settings”, he said.