The Department of Public Health Mid-West is urging people in Limerick, Clare, and North Tipperary to avoid unnecessary social mixing to protect Leaving Certificate students as they prepare for examinations in the coming weeks.
In light of the phased reopening of services and activities over the next fortnight, the public must be cognisant of the increased exposure to COVID-19 in the community if members of the public do not follow Public Health guidelines.
Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West, said the next month will be particularly crucial for students who are studying for their Leaving Certificate examinations.
“We have seen the huge disappointment felt by families, schools, and young people who were unable to sit important exams in the past due to being confirmed cases or identified as close contacts. It is an upsetting disruption for many young people who look forward to progressing to further education.
“While we welcome the easing of restrictions, we should be extra conscious of those who need to be COVID-free in order to sit their Leaving Cert exams. With just a few weeks remaining in the school term, we can protect the school population by steering clear of high-risk behaviour, such as indoor gatherings, and social mixing without wearing face coverings or social distancing.”
Since March 2021, Public Health Mid-West has managed 27 outbreaks in schools and early education settings, involving 197 COVID-19 cases*.
The vast majority of outbreaks in schools have been linked to clusters outside the school environment. These include birthday parties, indoor social gatherings, family and household clusters, household transmission linked to workplace situations, car-pooling, and public transport.
Dr Breda Cosgrove, Specialist in Public Health Medicine, who leads the Department’s Schools Team, said: “In recent months, we have seen social gatherings, including indoor parties, contribute to significant outbreaks in schools. These have resulted in major disruption to the lives of young people and their families. In the run-up to the Leaving Cert, we would urge students and their families to limit their social contacts and to avoid situations that might expose them to the risk of contracting COVID-19.”
Dr Abigail Collins, Consultant in Public Health Medicine and HSE Schools lead, re-iterated the importance of all around the greater school community following national public health guidance and considering their exposures. Dr Collins said:
“We have seen the impact of social gatherings, spread across multiple schools. To protect Leaving Certificate students, we all need to work together as school and family communities, to make sure they are best protected. This means limiting our contacts and minding our exposures, indoors and outdoors, to minimise the impact for this crucial next few weeks.”
You can help protect your local school community by:
- Avoiding high-risk social events, such as indoor meetings, birthday parties, social gatherings in groups. Further social mixing outside the school environment creates additional risk and may affect the child’s school experience.
- Pupils and staff can be protected at school by a number of mitigation measures during break time, on the school bus, before and after school, etc. These measures include face coverings where recommended, socially distancing, and frequent hand washing.
- If anyone in your household, student or adult, has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the individual should isolate and contact a GP to schedule a test. You and other household members should stay at home until test results are known. Exercising this level of precaution could prevent an outbreak from occurring at your school or among friends and family.
- If you are contacted by Public Health Mid-West, please follow all recommendations and instructions to best ensure the safety of everyone, and to minimise onward spread of any infection.
*Data is provisional and subject to change. This data are from confirmed outbreaks in primary and secondary schools, childcare facilities, pre-schools, and Montessoris.