Serious concerns over Covid-19 testing after ‘64 schools have reported positive cases during the first week of classes’
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The concerns were raised by SDLP Education Spokesman Daniel McCrossan MLA who has said that children and teachers presenting with symptoms must be marked for urgent tests.
The Department of Education (DE) revealed the figure to the Stormont Education Committee on Tuesday.
Up until Tuesday 8 September, DE had been notified of 88 positive cases in 64 schools.
More than 300,000 children returned to classrooms in the first week of September.
But the data on how many pupils and staff have been advised to self-isolate as a result is held by the Public Health Agency (PHA).
He said: “This is an incredibly stressful and worrying time for school leaders, teachers, parents and pupils.
“The return of classes always presented an increased risk for school communities but news that 64 schools are reporting positive Covid-19 cases in the first week will cause concern.
“We need to be assured that we have a robust testing and tracing operation capable of meeting the increased demand that we’re going to experience in the coming weeks and particularly as the cold and flu season begins.
“Now that children are back in the classroom, our focus must be on keeping them safe and preventing further disruption to their education”.
He added: “It’s clear that those within the bubble of children or teachers presenting with symptoms are at the highest risk of transmission.
“We need to make sure that there’s a mechanism for ensuring rapid testing of these cases in our schools to minimise disruption and keep the entire school community safe.
Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has said the level of COVID-19 cases in schools across the north is concerning.
The education spokeswoman said: “Reports that there have been 88 positive COVID-19 cases in 64 schools in the north are very concerning.
“Parents and guardians will undoubtedly be alarmed at these figures and there is an onus on the Education Minister and the Department of Education to provide clear and concise information to allay those concerns.
“Minister Weir needs to work with the health minister Robin Swann to make sure that a thorough testing mechanism is in place so that results are turned around quickly and positive cases can be identified and keep disruption at a minimum.
“At today’s Education Committee meeting I also asked the Education Authority and the Public Health Agency to work together to coordinate placing mobile testing units at schools in the event of outbreaks.
“We need to do everything we can to ensure the safety of pupils and all school staff in order to help stop the spread of COVID.”
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