Low interschool Covid-19 transmission rate ‘reassuring’

Interschool transmission of Covid-19 estimated at about 1.

The data from schools are very reassuring, with 384 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date, and a detection rate of 2.5 per cent, the latest Health Service Executive (HSE) operational briefing yesterday afternoon (Thursday, October 29) heard.

Up to yesterday, fewer than 600 facilities, about 15 per cent of all schools, had required public health risk assessment and onward testing, and had seen more than 15,000 people tested as close contacts Dr Abigail Collins, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, HSE told the meeting.

Most of those tested as close contacts were students, approximately 86 per cent, and 14 per cent had been staff or other adults. She said the trend in numbers testing positive across the whole spectrum had remained “fairly low”.

The positivity rate in post-primary schools had been 2 per cent positivity, in primary 2.7 per cent and 3.3 per cent in special education facilities.

A further breakdown showed that about 3 per cent of adults tested in primary schools were positive; 2.6 per cent in post-primary and 3.1 per cent among special education needs staff.

Case data had shown the proportion of confirmed cases of Covid-19 of schoolgoing cases at population level, between the age group of four to 18 years, had remained stable from the period before and after the return to schools.

About from 14.5 per cent of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in August were in the schoolgoing age group; 14.9 per cent in September up to 15.6 per cent in October.

Of the cases detected in schools, 1.9 per cent of all schools and 12.5 per cent of the facilities where they carried out public health risk assessment, had “some level of interschool transmission”, with a much lower level of onward spread of Covid-19, which had been largely contained.

She outlined the bespoke schools testing pathway in operation and the steps taken with each school in line with their individual situations. Schools were not “incubators and exacerbators” of Covid-19, she added.

Dr Collins underlined the need and the huge amount of work carried out by teachers and parents to keep the schools safe and open.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry highlighted increased pressures on hospital systems in Europe, trends of rising Covid-19 cases and their relevance for what would happen in the near future in Ireland.

The hospital system here was stable and coping at the moment and not leaning into surge capacity.

In the first wave, he added, the mortality rate in intensive care had been 21 per cent compared to 40 per cent or more in the UK and other countries. The main reason that had been attributed to this had been that we were able to provide the main bulk of intensive care in conventional intensive care settings, and that remained the case.

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