The re-opening of schools after the mid-term break has been plunged into last-minute chaos after the sudden withdrawal of dozens more hand sanitisers and other anti-Covid products.
Principals and boards of management have to spend the weekend scrambling to secure fresh supplies ahead of Monday’s return.
In a shock development, the Department of Education has told principals to remove 52 sanitisation products from use that had been on an official purchase list for the education sector.
The Department said there was no evidence that the products were unsafe but that it “has not been possible to satisfactorily confirm their registration status.”
The 52 products represent about one third of wipes, soaps, hand sanitisers, sanitiser refills and detergents on the list, so it is likely that many schools are affected.
Their removal followed a review of 172 products after the recall of the ViraPro hand gel and other ViraPro items from the education and HSE procurement lists because of health and safety concerns.
It was unclear last night whether any of the products were also used in healthcare and other settings, but It seems likely.
The HSE said that yesterday it had initiated a full inventory and review of biocidal products used in the health service.
It said it would “review all HSE stores and services and a wide range of products, and is estimated to take some time to complete.”
The public has been advised that there is no need to dispose of product in their possession but to ensure that future purchases bear clearly visible PCS or IE-BPA or EU numbers on the label.
The Department of Agriculture, which conducted the review, said in relation to biocides, only products that are listed on its Biocidal Product Register may be placed on the market.
It said it had “now become clear that there are some products on the market that are not properly registered. Where issues in relation to registration arise, the Department is taking appropriate action, on a precautionary basis.”
It added that “there is no reason to believe that the failure to register a product gives rise of itself to specific concerns in relation to safety or efficacy.”
The Department of Education is putting in place supports in conjunction with other suppliers to provide stock to schools before Monday. It is also offering extra funding to schools and its Covid Helpline is working through the weekend.
But that may be little comfort to principals who on the eve of mid-term got a late night message advising that ViraPro hand gel was recalled, which left some schools unable to open on the last day before the break.
Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) general secretary John Boyle said it was “very concerning that many of the products on the approved list have now been deemed inappropriate. That this information has come to light during the mid-term break is very unsatisfactory. School leaders and boards of management needed this break to recharge after an incredibly stressful nine weeks.”
Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) general secretary, Michael Gillespie said they recognised and regretted the disruption, but believed that recalling the products was the necessary and correct decision.