The Health Service Executive has admitted there has been a recent surge in Covid-19 testing in Louth as it emerged that at least two primary schools and a secondary school in Dundalk have confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
Parents of pupils at two local national schools Scoil Eoin Baiste and Castletown Girls’ School in the town and De La Salle College in Dundalk have been alerted that a student has tested positive for coronavirus.
It comes as the HSE admitted that there has been an increase in both “community and schools testing” in Louth in the past week.
However, the HSE failed to answer specific questions put to them by the Democrat, which enquired if there is a backlog of people waiting to be tested in Dundalk, and if that was the case how long people should expect to wait for a test after their GP referred them and if the possible delay in testing was due to the drive-thru testing centre at the Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) closing after the college reopend.
The HSE simply responded with the short reply saying: “There has been a surge in both community and schools testing in Louth in the past week.
“The HSE is looking on all options to have tests completed as soon as possible including increasing capacity.”
It comes as it emerged that three schools in Dundalk had a confirmed case of Covid-19 last week which would have resulted in local testing centres having an increase in the number of children who were deemed close contacts needing to be tested.
Parents of children attending Scoil Eoin Baiste received a letter from the HSE last Monday alerting them that there had been a confirmed case at the school.
“A confirmed case of Covid-19 in your child’s school, Scoil Eoin Baiste has been confirmed to the Health Protection Team, Department of Public Health, HSE North -East”, the letter from the HSE last Monday, which was seen by the Democrat, said.
“A public health risk assessment has been undertaken and the parents of children deemed to be close contacts of the confirmed case have been contacted and advised accordingly.
“If your child has not been identified as a close contact at this time, your child does not need to test for Covid-19 and may continue to attend school.”
However, the letter advised parents that if their child developed symptoms that could suggest they have coronavirus, such as a cough, fever and loss or change in their sense of taste or smell, they should not send them to school, they should phone their GP and restrict their kid’s movement in accordance with health advice.
Parents with children in close contact with the confirmed case of Covid-19 were advised to self-isolate and request a test.
Parents of children in Castletown Girls’ school were also alerted last Monday that there was a confirmed case of Covid-19 in their 3rd class.
The school sent a letter to parents to tell them that children in 3rd class should stay at home.
“We received notification this evening that there is a positive case of Covid-19 in third class”, the letter said.
“The HSE will be in contact with the school in the morning to get phone numbers and emails for parents and will inform you of the next step to be taken.
“In the meantime, they have advised me that 3rd class should stay at home tomorrow and await a call from the HSE.
“Your child will be scheduled for a Covid-19 test as soon as possible.
“The Department of Public Health has advised that children outside 3rd class can continue to attend school as normal.”
The HSE also contact parents of students at the De La Salle College, Dundalk last Tuesday to alert them that there was a confirmed case of Covid-19 in their child’s school.
Again, the students deemed close contacts were advised to self-isolate and contact their GP to be referred for a Covid-19 test.
The Department of Health warned ahead of the reopening of schools that infections were "inevitable", and that it was not a major cause for concern as long as all guidelines are followed.
The confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 in local schools came as it emerged last week that schools are to be subject to new Covid-19 safety checks.
The Department of Education’s inspectorate and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) have developed an agreed plan to monitor schools’ compliance with Covid-19 rules on a trial basis, it was reported.
While the results of these checks will be shared with school leaders on the day of inspection, there is no guarantee parents or teachers will get to see the findings.
A spokesperson from the Department of Education said: “These visits will facilitate professional dialogue between the school principal and an inspector on issues surrounding the school’s plans and the measures taken to ensure its safe and sustainable reopening.
“Inspectors will monitor compliance with the department’s Covid-19 response plans for schools and will provide feedback that can be used to assist schools to identify strengths in their response plans and to highlight any aspects that may require further development.”
The spokesman added that the boards of participating schools in these initial visits may choose to make records of the visits available to their own school communities.