Thursday, October 29, 2020

By Digital Desk Staff

There are “gaps” in the school system when it comes to preventing the transmission of Covid-19, an infectious disease expert has said.

It comes after members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) voted yesterday to take industrial action as a “last resort” unless the Government “immediately addresses” concerns over Covid-19 safety in schools.

The union is calling for a comprehensive testing programme with 24-hour turnaround, a redefinition of close contacts for school settings and appropriate arrangements for teachers categorised as high risk.

Jack Lambert, an infectious diseases consultant at the Mater Hospital, said that prevention measures to combat Covid-19 could be improved in schools.

“All schools in Ireland do not have safe Covid prevention plans in place, and then I think also, a lot of kids after they leave the schools, as they are coming to the schools, are not doing all the right things in terms of Covid prevention,” he said.

Teachers are wearing visors rather than masks. I think there’s gaps in the system

“Teachers are wearing visors rather than masks. I think there’s gaps in the system so I do think we need to up the ante in terms of Covid prevention.”

Opposition politicians have said urgent action must now be taken by Government to address the concerns raised by teachers.

Labour education spokesman, Aodhan O’Riordain, said the threat of strike action by teachers must serve as a “wake-up call”.

“The issues that are being raised by the ASTI are real. Schools are only continuing to open because of the professionalism and goodwill of all staff who are working in our schools,” he said.

“What they’re saying about testing and tracing, about the resources that they need, about outstanding issues that are within the teaching profession – I think Government needs to take them seriously and start with a partnership approach.”

“There have been other teaching unions like the INTO who obviously haven’t balloted for industrial action, but have said that the contact tracing and the mechanisms around that that are in our primary schools are shambolic,” Mr O’Riordain added.

In response to the ASTI’s concerns, public health authorities previously prepared a document saying they believe that fewer than 10 schools in the Republic have experienced significant transmission of Covid-19.

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