Thursday, 3 June 2021
Department of Education and Skills
288. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the measures put in place by her Department to protect pupils and staff against Covid-19 in primary and post-primary schools to ensure a reduction in the number of students being sent home to self-isolate as a result of becoming a close contact; if lateral flow testing is being considered by her to tackle this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30285/21]
The Department of Education, in close consultation with experts in the HSE, has developed a range of approaches to facilitate the safe operation of schools during this time. The evidence to date from a public health perspective is that transmission rates of Covid-19 in schools are low. This is a result of the effectiveness of the public health infection prevention and control guidelines for schools and the successful implementation and adherence of all in the school community to the guidelines. Funding of almost €650 million has been put in place by the Government to support the implementation of these COVID-19 related measures, including funding for PPE, sanitation and additional cleaning.
The Department is part of the Testing Pathways Working Group, which is examining the use of antigen testing in educational facilities. The use of antigen testing in educational settings is under review by this group.
The current policy of the HSE is to continue to use the more accurate PCR tests for testing all index cases and close contacts within the school community and to continue to prioritise the mass swift queue PCR testing for schools which has proven highly effective to date.