Department of Public Health Mid-West offer Public Health advice for return to school

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THE Department of Public Health Mid-West would like to reassure the public that strong mitigation measures preventing COVID-19 are effective in breaking chains of transmission in the school setting and community.

 

Public Health Mid-West continues to record a high incidence of COVID-19 across the region, with 830 cases recorded in the seven days up to September 1; 516 in Limerick, 200 in Clare, and 114 in North Tipperary.

 

In recent weeks, they have reported a number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities, workplaces, early education settings, clusters among vulnerable populations, households, multi-household settings, families and extended families, and a number of small to large community outbreaks.

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The current high level of infection follows weeks of increased social activity in the community amid the escalating spread of the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant, which is now the dominant strain.

 

Public Health Mid-West has a strong Schools Team, led by a Specialist in Public Health Medicine with support from the Department of Education, and will support and advise schools where necessary.

 

Everyone age 12 and older should register for vaccination if they have not already done so.

 

Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West, said: “I would like to acknowledge the Trojan work of pupils, parents, and school staff for all their efforts in making their school a safer place since the start of the pandemic. It’s clear that they have shown immense leadership over what has been a very challenging 18 months.

 

“As a parent of a pupil, I understand the worry and concern among parents for their children returning to school. They are our world and we want what is best for them, and we can achieve that by helping them be as protected as possible, both inside and outside the school setting.

 

“A large number of outbreaks among children of school-going age that we have managed have been linked to activity outside the school setting. This included birthday parties, house parties, large social gatherings indoors and outdoors, play dates, car-pooling, and social contact at break times. What we find is that when a number of social clusters occur, this can cause onward transmission in the school setting. Knowing this is all the more important amid a high incidence of COVID-19 in the community. While Delta is more transmissible than the Alpha variant, how we prevent transmission does not change. It means we have to be more conscious to not drop our guard, to limit our social interactions, keep the distance, and remember to wash our hands frequently. Exercising caution can help reduce the chance of becoming infected with COVID-19, and spreading it, also.

 

“It is also important to note the considerable uptake in the COVID-19 vaccine among those who are eligible, which should play a significant role in protecting a large proportion of the population in the coming months.”

 

People can stay protected throughout the school term by:

  • Registering for a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, if eligible. Children too young to be vaccinated are highly unlikely to get severe disease if infected with COVID-19.
  • Avoiding high-risk social events, such as playdates, indoor meetings, birthday parties, social gatherings in groups. Further social mixing outside the school environment creates additional risk and may affect the child’s school experience.
  • Pupils and staff can be protected at school by a number of mitigation measures during break time, on the school bus, before and after school, etc. These measures include face coverings where recommended, socially distancing, and frequent hand washing.
  • If anyone in your household, student or adult, has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the individual should isolate and contact a GP to schedule a test. You and other household members should stay at home until test results are known. Exercising this level of precaution could prevent an outbreak from occurring at your school or among friends and family.
  • If you are contacted by Public Health Mid-West, please follow all recommendations and instructions to best ensure the safety of everyone, and to minimise onward spread of any infection.