Schools will no longer have to contact trace in Northern Ireland

Schools in the north will no longer be asked to carry out contact tracing of pupils following an agreement between the departments of Education and Health.

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 5:56 pm

Starting today, contact tracing in schools will be taken forward primarily by the Public Health Agency’s (PHA) Contact Tracing Service.

The move comes amid concerns over the huge pressure contact tracing was putting on many schools amid high incidence rates of COVID among pupils in the days since the new term started.

Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen said: “I recognise the significant burden and challenges that principals have faced since the start of the new term in trying to support contact tracing in schools. I want to particularly acknowledge the incredible efforts of school leaders, staff and board of governors in ensuring that effective contact tracing has been in place. Over the last few days I have held meetings with the Minister of Health and his officials to urgently resolve this issue. It has been agreed that the PHA’s Contact Tracing Service will take forward the work of contact tracing in schools without the significant level of involvement of school staff that has been the case to date. Only those with the closest contact will be required to isolate and take a PCR test. This move is another step towards normality.”

Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride said: “In recent weeks we have seen large numbers of children in schools identified as close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases. This has caused disruption in schools and put pressure on school staff, pupils and parents. I have worked closely with colleagues in the Department of Education to agree an approach that minimises disruption for children and schools while supporting our continued efforts to reduce transmission of COVID.”