Parents with a child in primary school are not entitled to know if their classmates have tested positive for Covid-19, it was confirmed yesterday.
hildren who are close contacts of a primary school pupil who is infected with the virus will no longer be tested and traced from Monday.
Many parents have since expressed concern that they will be left in the dark if one of their children could have been exposed to the virus.
However, a spokesman for the Department of Education said yesterday that once a child is confirmed as having the virus, they must self-isolate at home.
“The public health advice is that anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19 should self-isolate at home immediately and contact their GP for advice and guidance, and to arrange a Covid-19 test if appropriate,” the spokesperson said.
“This will help to keep schools safe and keep Covid-19 out of schools.
“It is important to remember that the confirmed case is no longer within the school and therefore the risk of onward transmission from that person has been removed from the school setting.
“Public health has advised schools that in these circumstances, there is no clinical need for information to be shared with other people in the school.
“It is not recommended therefore that schools share with parents of other children that there has been a case of Covid-19 within the class, facility or group.”
A spokeswoman for the HSE said that “information about a persons’ personal health data are only shared to third party personnel by the medical officer of health if required for investigation and management purposes”.
“This is the way schools have been informed to date,” she added. “Other parents are currently only informed by the HSE that their child has been determined a close contact of a case of Covid-19, as part of the contact tracing process.”
She said HSE public health teams will no longer be routinely investigating and managing Covid-19 among children in most settings, or identifying children as close contacts in school settings.
This follows advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
The obligation not to tell parents of another child’s positive test will also apply in childcare setting, sports and social activities where testing and tracing of close contacts will also end except in particular circumstances where the HSE believes there is a risk.
Up to now, a positive case triggered a risk assessment and around 1,200 children a day were being deemed close contacts. They had to stay at home for 10 days and could not return to school until they had a clear test.
But Nphet decided the risk of Covid-19 was low compared to the harm of forcing a child to stay at home for so long, sometimes several times a term.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) is now concerned that lack of contact tracing to pick up more cases will lead to a greater spread in schools and may even lead to closures.
Around 10,000 children who are currently restricting their movements can return to the classroom and childcare from Monday without a test.
However, it is understood they may continue to get an automatic text message from the HSE reminding them of a day 10 test. This is because the notification cannot be turned off, although they will not longer required to be tested.
This is expected to lead to more confusion among parents.
Parents are advised to remain vigilant for any new acute symptoms in their children and to keep them home as a precautionary measure if concerned.