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Parents warned by HSE not to use school WhatsApp groups to name children with Covid-19

Families told it’s important that ‘a child’s confidentiality is not broken in line with normal GDPR requirements’

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The HSE has issued a warning to parents on primary school WhatsApp groups about the dangers of rumour mills naming a child who has Covid-19.

WhatsApp exchanges between parents could go into overdrive following the decision to abandon routine testing and tracing of primary schoolchildren who are close contacts of a classmate with the virus.

But this potential flurry of exchanges, which can easily turn into a hotbed of well-meaning school gossip about a Covid-19 positive child, should not be posted.

The HSE told parents that it is important that “a child’s confidentiality is not broken in line with normal GDPR requirements”.

The advice warned: ”It is important that children and families do not feel targeted or pressure to release information.”

It follows confirmation that school principals have been told there is “no clinical need” for information to be shared with parents of classmates if a pupil tests positive.

However, parents should not send their child to school if they have possible symptoms of Covid-19 and they can contact their GP for free about arranging a test or book online.

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It comes as around 10,000 children, who were restricting movements after being identified as a close contact, returned to the classroom yesterday without a test.

An Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) spokesperson said there was “a lot of confusion on the ground” in primary schools yesterday.

Among the concerns reported by principals were issues about children who had weaker immune systems due to particular illness and also about pupils with special educational needs in mainstream classes.

He said there was also confusion arising from automated texts arising from previous cases telling them not to return to school until a certain day.

It had sought the deferral of the changes on contact tracing arrangements in primary schools until more data on outbreaks in schools was available.

There is still a lot of Covid-19 circulating in Ireland with 1,049 new cases reported yesterday.

Some 310 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, up from 297 a week ago. Of these 66 are in intensive care, compared to 65 yesterday week.

However, while there has been a drop in the numbers coming forward for testing – in part due to the changes relating to primary school children deemed close contacts – the positivity rate has increased.

Yesterday it was 7.16pc compared to 5.46pc last Friday which the HSE says is due to a concentration of people with symptoms seeking testing.

Children under 12 are the only group in the population who are still not eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine.

Pfizer is due to submit data shortly to the European Medicines Agency to ask for approval for a vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

However, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said yesterday that a vaccine for these young children is not expected “in this calendar year”.

He said: “The conversations that the chief medical officer and I have had is that we wouldn’t be expecting anything like that in this calendar year. We will keep that under very close review.”

A select group of people who have very low immune systems, including transplant patients, will be invited to apply for a third “top-up” or booster vaccine from this week.

Next week GPs will also start to offer the extra vaccines to their patients aged over 80. Nursing home residents aged over 65 will also be in line for another vaccine shot.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland


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