More than 500 outbreaks of Covid linked to school students and staff in the second half of 2021

There were more Covid-19 outbreaks linked to schoolchildren and staff in the second half of last year than anywhere else, except in private homes.

This is according to the latest data from the Health Protection Surveillance Center (HPSC) looking into the fourth wave of Covid-19 in Ireland between June 27 and December 31, 2021.

The largest number of outbreaks was recorded among families in private homes, with 914 outbreaks.

The next higher number came from schoolchildren and staff, with 514 outbreaks occurring among these groups.

HPSC classifies school outbreaks as those associated with school children and/or school personnel. She says transmission of Covid-19 within the school has not necessarily been demonstrated in these outbreaks.

An outbreak is defined by HPSC as either two or more confirmed cases of Covid-19 regardless of symptom status. Or it can also refer to two or more cases of illness with symptoms consistent with Covid-19 in which at least one person is a confirmed case.

The third highest number of outbreaks was recorded in the workplace, with 458 outbreaks.

These numbers come as schools reopen across the country today.

ASTI said yesterday There is «great concern» among its members about schools reopening, with INTO saying there is «no hope» of getting enough replacement teachers to cover school absences over the coming weeks.

“There will be situations where there will be classes at home, and there will be situations where schools will have to do some juggling,” INTO’s John Boyle said today.

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In response, Education Secretary Norma Foley said there will be challenges in the coming weeks, but added that 2,500 retired students and teachers will be made available to fill those gaps.

When asked whether the Department of Education or the principal makes the final decision on whether the classroom goes home or the school will be closed, Foley said, «Schools know their situation on the ground, but schools can draw resources from the department and inspectors in particular, so they can of working through the best solution.”

The government has insisted since last December that schools will open as planned on January 6; After a meeting between the Minister of Education, administration officials, unions and school representatives on Tuesday, it was decided that schools will open today as planned.

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