The Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the HSE have published guidance for managing potential cases of COVID-19 in educational settings, which includes the testing strategy within an educational facility ‘Schools Pathway for COVID-19, the Public Health approach’
It is important to note that 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.
The Public Health response to schools in the coming term will be further enhanced by the HSE through the increased resourcing of School Teams in each HSE area.
These multi-disciplinary teams are being led by public health professionals and will be supplemented by inspectors assigned for this work to the HSE from my Department in addition to other staff reassigned from within the health services.
My Department Inspectors will bring their expertise and knowledge of the working of schools to support these teams to communicate with schools. Public Health team members will take calls and phone schools following identification of a positive Covid-19 case, and having been trained in Public Health protocols undertake the schools’ component of the initial risk assessment. They may inform schools of any further actions as required under the direction of Public Health. Assigned inspectors and other team members will also respond to queries from the HSElive Principals line and take schools’ queries that come directly to the Department of Public Health.
My Department has worked with the HSE Department of Public Health to also ensure that testing is prioritised for those close contacts within the school community of confirmed COVID-19 cases. 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 in this very challenging time.