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Sharp rise in the number of weekly COVID-19 outbreaks in schools

There has been a sharp increase in the number of weekly COVID-19 outbreaks in schools. Public health data shows that there were 46 outbreaks in primary and secondary schools last week. It was 25 in the previous week and just 12 before that.

An outbreak is confirmed when two or more linked cases of the virus are identified.  According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), the total number of outbreaks in schools so far is 118.

The HSE said it required a quick response from the public health sector when it comes to school and child safety. However, they said that the increase in cases in the community and the rate of positivity has greatly challenged public health groups in recent weeks and this has affected the response time in schools.

The HSE stated that the goal is to strengthen its processes when children return to school after next week’s midterm break. Teams of support people were being put in place to be direct points of contact for schools, the HSE added.

The positivity rate of schools is 2.3%, which is lower than the national positivity rate of more than 7%.

At an NPHET briefing last week, health officials said the increase in COVID-19 cases in the community was leading to more cases in schools.

Deputy CMO Dr. Ronan Glyn said that whilst the number of cases among school children is growing, the rate of growth in this group is smaller than that of the broader community.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Colm Henry had said the widespread community transmission is a threat to schools, but schools are not a threat to communities. That is, although COVID cases in schools are on the rise, it is caused by a virus outbreak from communities.

A total of 414 schools underwent mass testing. More than 10,500 students and staff were tested. Of these, 246 COOVID-19 cases were identified, the HSE said.

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