20th October 2020
Following INTO’s outlining of our concerns yesterday, two representatives of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) met with primary education stakeholders earlier today. The INTO outlined our key concerns to Department of Education officials and the Irish public health experts and reiterated our demands which include published details of confirmed Covid-19 cases in schools, a clear explanation of the difference between a close and casual contact in the school setting, an urgent review of the policy of wearing face coverings by pupils and school staff, an additional suite of protective measures for primary and special schools in light of the national movement to level 5 restrictions and an evidence-based public health decision on schools following consultation and engagement with stakeholders.
The NPHET representatives admitted that the system had been overwhelmed in the last two weeks but assured us that our queries and concerns will be dealt with in the coming week. Furthermore, the NPHET representatives advised that special public-health school teams of HSE staff will be working in every HSE area after the mid-term break.
The INTO insisted that the government must, between now and the end of October, establish a public awareness campaign to ensure everyone in society works together to allow schools to remain open safely. We have submitted a range of questions and recommendations and requested prompt answers and clarifications.
INTO General Secretary John Boyle said:
The Department of Education officials assured us that they will continue to engage with the INTO regularly during schools’ midterm break. The successful reopening of schools on 2 November will depend on the preventative and protective measures that are put in place by the government in the interim.