Contact tracing of close contacts in childcare facilities and primary schools has stopped from today.
Under the changes, children under 13 who are close contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases in schools or childcare will no longer be required to self-isolate from September 27th if they are symptom-free.
However, if a child is identified as a close contact in their household, will still be required to restrict movements and be tested, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.
The changes will not be applied to children who attend special schools.
Commenting ahead of today’s change, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “The resumption of in-person education was associated with a significant increase in the numbers of children referred for testing in recent weeks. This was entirely to be expected.
“Despite this increased testing, there has only been a relatively modest increase in the detection of cases in the school-going age group. We have also seen the associated positivity rate recently decrease from 16% to 5% which is very reassuring.
“Both nationally and internationally, the evidence tells us that schools are a low risk setting for the transmission of COVID-19 among school-going children and, as such, now is the right time to evolve our contact tracing approach, while maintaining the infection prevention and control measures in place in educational settings.”
Prof Philip Nolan from NPHET disputed theories about a ‘secret policy’ to allow children to get infected with Covid in order to build immunity.
“The idea that there is some secret ‘policy’ to allow children become infected and build immunity is untrue nonsense. We have had just over 30,000 cases in a population of about 570,000 5-12 year olds,” Prof Nolan said yesterday.
“Even if this is an underestimate of the numbers previously infected, at current infection rates (2,000-2,500 per week) it would take 3-5 years for all existing children to become infected.”
CMO Dr Holohan said that it may take some time to adjust to this new advice.
“The most important action to take is: if you display symptoms of COVID-19 like cough, fever, fatigue, headache, or sore throat – isolate and contact your GP who will advise if you need to arrange a test,” Dr Holohan said.