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HSE reveals 12,000 kids out of schools as Covid close contacts

Almost 12,000 schoolchildren are currently out of class due to being a close contact of someone with Covid-19, the HSE has confirmed.

However, HSE lead for testing and tracing Niamh O’Beirne said the positivity rate found so far from testing children, aged 14 and under, has dropped to 9%.

She said an increase in testing and swabbing volumes had been expected as schools reopened and children began mingling again.

“We have 700 primary schools and about 500 secondary schools that are coming into the testing process,” Ms O’ Beirne said yesterday.

Primary school pupils have been found to have on average 15 close contacts each, she said.

“Multiply those up by the cases, and we get just over 10,000,” she said.

Secondary school students tend to have three to four close contacts, and that is “looking around 1,500” close contacts.

“We would say there are about 12,000 children who are out of school as a result of being a close contact in the schools testing process,” Ms O’ Beirne said.

“There are more out of school because they have the disease, or they could be a close contact of their parents or someone else. So it’s not the total amount of children out, but it is the number who are close contacts through the schools system.”

Overall, she said the impact of the schools reopening was clear at swabbing sites around the country.

“There is a spike in testing among those 0-14s, but not for positivity. The positivity is actually falling,” she said.

“It was 13% over a week ago, and it’s now 9%. Their positivity is coming down as we are seeing more and more people getting tested.”

The HSE is expecting other viruses, including Respiratory Syncytial Virus and parainfluenza to start circulating, which could lead to higher levels of testing as many of the symptoms are similar to Covid-19.

“You are seeing a combination of other viruses circulating, and schools testing to give you a lot of under-14s referrals,” she said.

Altogether there were 20,500 Covid-19 tests booked yesterday by 5pm.

“This is a noticeable jump up from the previous Monday when there were 16,000 swabs carried out. Both Saturday and Sunday were up 20% on the swabbing volumes for the weekend before.

“This was really busy in the swabbing sites. Our maximum volume is 20,000 (in the community) so that is tipping our maximum,” Ms O’ Beirne said.

“I think we will manage on testing. We will work through this week, and if we have a number of consecutive days in excess of 20,000 we would look to deploy antigen testing.”

There were also up to 4,000 tests done in hospitals, and some thousands in nursing homes as serial testing continues in homes where the virus is circulating, as well as in meat factories.

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