I propose to take Questions Nos. 316 and 318 together.
Public health specialists working with schools and my Department are closely monitoring the situation in all schools to ensure that where schools are open with appropriate infection prevention and control measures, there is no additional threat to public health. To date the evidence demonstrates that schools are operating safely supported by significant investment to support all infection prevention and control measures recommended by the public health authorities.
The low numbers are a tribute to the strong adherence by schools to the public health recommendations for safely reopening schools. The testing and positivity rates in schools for close contacts also reflect the current international position that schools are not key drivers of Covid-19 in the community.
In terms of what happens when a child attending school tests positive, the HSE will inform the school principal if the child was in the school in the infectious period regardless of parental consent. In these circumstances the HSE will conduct a Public Health Risk Assessment with the school principal. This is usually undertaken the same day they are notified, but it may be the following day.
Public Health will work with the school principal to identify the close contacts and all close contact will be informed and scheduled for testing and asked to restrict their movements. Parent/guardians will be informed if their child is a close contact.
The wider school community can be informed that the school is working with public health who are guiding the school through the actions they need to take to protect staff, pupils and the school community. 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.
Schools are working hard to implement the public health advice which is proving to be effective in keeping transmission levels in schools so low. All recommendations are being kept under review by consultants / specialists in Public Health as we continue to deal with the ongoing pandemic.