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Clarity is sought over ‘conflicting advice on runny noses’

Norma Foley called on to clarify if having a runny nose is enough to keep a child at home

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Education Minister Norma Foley

Education Minister Norma Foley

Education Minister Norma Foley

Parents and teachers are facing confusion over whether a child having a “runny nose” is enough reason not to send them to school because they may have Covid-19.

The problem arises because of “conflicting advice” on possible symptoms of the virus from the HSE and the Department of Education, it was claimed.

Education Minister Norma Foley was called on to clarify whether having a runny nose was enough to keep a child at home and self isolate.

The issue was raised by Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire at the Oireachtas Education Committee as the Education Minister praised the return to school, although she admitted there were some “pinch points” faced by principals in response to cases of Covid-19.

He said the Department of Education guidelines of symptoms for self-isolation included “runny noses and stuffy noses”.

But in apparently conflicting advice, the HSE guidelines say it is “ok to send a child to school” if they only have a runny nose or sneeze.

He said tens of thousands of children had a runny nose at one time.

Ms Foley said her department’s guidelines were based on public health advice.

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“The advice is a child should stay at home if they are unwell. It is a precautionary measure. Parents know their child best,” she added.

She insisted there was no confusion and efforts had been made to provide clear advice through various channels including social media, videos from experts and in different languages.

Responding to claims by the TD that the early weeks of return to school had been chaotic for some principals who had to contact parents when a confirmed case emerged in a class, she said no teacher should have to do their own contact tracing.

That is why she was keen to have HSE public health school teams in place and they were boosted by staff from her department.

Labour TD Aodhán O’Riordáin also claimed he was told some principals were waiting “three to four days” for HSE public health teams to arrive to risk assess.

Previously, the HSE has asked school principals to wait until their public health teams arrive to do a risk assessment, saying once the infected child is at home and none of the others has symptoms they should continue with schooling in the meantime.

It is now planned, based on the spread of infection in schools, to ease the rules around children who are close contacts and have no symptoms having to stay at home for up to 10 days, although there will be exceptions.

Ms Foley said 25,000 CO2 monitors, which check the quality of air, had been delivered to schools this week. Some 96pc of primary schools – including all special schools – have received their full
allocation.

Every post-primary school has received a minimum of 10 CO2 monitors.

However, there is a delay with the delivery of the last batch of 10,000 CO2 monitors, due to a fault with the LCD display unit. The remaining ones will be distributed to schools in late September or early October.

Schools had been told they could make their own arrangements to get monitors in the meantime, she added.

She was speaking as another 1,423 new cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday.

There were 286 patients with the virus in hospital, a fall of eleven from Monday.

Of these 63 patients were in intensive care, a figure which has remained stable.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said vaccines were providing very effective protection from severe illness and they had fundamentally changed the risk profile of Covid-19 in this country.


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