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Covid-19 Pandemic

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 4 November 2020

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Questions (71)

Bríd Smith

Question:

71. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Education the criteria and procedures used in schools to define a close contact of a Covid-19 positive person (details supplied); the persons the public health risk assessment team consult in deciding who might be a close contact; the person or body that has the final say on what a close contact is in each case; the rationale for departing from the ECDC definitions for schools settings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33997/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department has no role in providing guidance of a clinical or medical nature. However the HPSC have recently published the following definition of a close contact in an educational setting which was communicated to all schools this week.

In accordance with current HPSC close contacts guidelines a clinical Public Health Risk Assessment (PHRA) will be undertaken for all educational settings where a confirmed case has attended whilst infectious. This PHRA will determine the close contacts as:

- Any person who has had face to face contact within less than 1 metre with a confirmed case of COVID-19 for >15 minutes in a school day.

- Any person who has been between 1 and 2 metres from a confirmed case of Covid-19 for >15 minutes in a school day with consideration of other mitigation measures e.g. face-coverings, pods, ventilation, IPC measures or uncertain compliance with mitigation measures in place (assessed through clinical PHRA)

Contacts are assessed from contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 during their infectious period - 48 hours before the onset of symptoms if symptomatic, or 24 hours before the test for Covid-19 was taken in those who are asymptomatic.

The response to confirmed cases or outbreaks of Covid-19 in the community or in a school is the responsibility of, and will be led and managed by, Public Health HSE. All decisions as to appropriate actions following a confirmed case or outbreak will be made by their teams in the context of a full Public Health Risk Assessment procedure.

It is the view of Public Health that the evidence available to date shows that schools are proving to be safe spaces for children and for the staff.

My Department will continue to work closely with all of the education partners and the public health system so that schools can continue to be supported during this very challenging time.

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