Procedures to be followed for suspected/confirmed COVID-19 cases in primary schools

The Department of Education has, today, provided clarity on the procedures to be followed in the event of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in a primary school. The INTO has pushed for clarity on these matters in recent weeks.

Key points to note are:

  • The response to confirmed cases or outbreaks in schools will be led by Public Health HSE and, any actions to be taken by a school will be communicated directly by them. School management will be informed if action such as excluding children or staff; partial or full closures are deemed necessary. If the school is not so informed, it has not been deemed necessary by Public Health.
  • If a child displays symptoms which may be consistent with COVID-19, the school should contact their parent or guardian and ask them to collect their child as soon as possible. The child should be cared for appropriately by a staff member whilst they are waiting to go home.  The isolation space should be cleaned and contact surfaces disinfected when vacated.  The staff member who has cared for the child with symptoms during this time does not need to go home unless subsequently advised to by Public Health HSE.
  • At this stage, no further action by the school is required.
  • In particular, schools are asked to note that they should not inform other parents or staff members that a pupil or staff member has gone home due to their symptoms. Other pupils or staff do not need to be removed from class, including siblings or other household members.
  • If a GP determines that symptoms are consistent with COVID-19 infection, and the person is referred for a test, at this point the person becomes a suspected COVID-19 case and household members, including siblings, should be withdrawn from school by their parent or guardian. (The INTO has called on employers to give flexibility to parents/guardians in these circumstances.)
  • Where there is a confirmed case, it will not be automatically assumed that a whole class will be deemed as close contacts.
  • There is no blanket policy to test entire classes.
  • In the event of an outbreak, Public Health will determine between a range of possible interventions, from exclusion and testing of a small group or pod of pupils up to, and including, closure of an affected facility.

Schools should have a summary of the following prepared in case it is needed by the public health authorities:

  • A brief description of the school (type, numbers of staff and pupils and special features).
  • A list of staff and pupils, with appropriate contact phone numbers
  • A broad description of classrooms
  • An outline of the staff and pupils’ movements around the school, btween lessons and breaks
  • An up-to-date list of ‘pods’ and ‘bubbles’

The INTO has called on the government to provide priority testing to any asymptomatic teacher in a primary or special school who requests it. We believe it is imperative that the government commits to the establishment of a surveillance system and a rapid, repeated testing and tracing regime for schools.