The Mid-West Department of Public Health is urging residents of North Tipperary to avoid unnecessary social mix-ups in order to protect students from the graduation certificate as they prepare for exams in the coming weeks.
In light of the gradual reopening of services and activities over the next fortnight, the public should be aware 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 Mid-West Public Health, said next month will be especially crucial for students studying for their graduation certificate exams.
âWe have seen the enormous disappointment felt by families, schools and young people who have not been able to pass important exams in the past due to cases confirmed or identified as close contact. It is a shattering upheaval for many young people who are eager to progress to higher education.
âWhile we welcome the easing of restrictions, we should be more aware of those who need to be Covid-free to take their Leaving Cert exams. Within weeks of the end of the school term, we can protect the school population by avoiding high-risk behaviors, such as indoor gatherings, and social mixing without wearing face coverings and social distancing. “
As of March 2021, Public Health Mid-West has managed 27 outbreaks in schools and preschool facilities, involving 197 cases of Covid-19.
The vast majority of outbreaks in schools have been linked to clusters outside of the school setting. These include birthday parties, indoor social gatherings, family and household groups, household transmission related to work situations, carpooling and public transport.
The HSE continues to monitor a major outbreak in Nenagh which has seen the closure of St Joseph’s CBS High School and the transition, fifth and sixth grade classes at St Mary’s Girls’ Convent High School in Nenagh return to l online learning.
The outbreak has propelled Nenagh District to the second highest Covid-19 rate in the country behind Milford in Donegal.
Dr Breda Cosgrove, a specialist in public health medicine, who heads the schools team in the department, said: âIn recent months we have seen social gatherings, including indoor parties, contributing to important outbreaks in schools. These have caused serious disruption in the lives of young people and their families. Looking ahead to Leaving Cert, we urge students and their families to limit their social contact and avoid situations that could put them at risk of contracting Covid-19. “
Dr Abigail Collins, Public Health Medicine Consultant and Head of HSE Schools, reiterated the importance of everything around the school community as a whole following national public health guidelines and considering their exposures. Dr Collins said: âWe have seen the impact of social gatherings, spread across several schools. To protect Leaving Certificate students, we must all work together as school and family communities to make sure they are better protected. This means limiting our contact and paying attention to our exhibits, inside and out, to minimize the impact for these crucial coming weeks. “
You can help protect your local school community by:
– avoid high risk social events, such as hall meetings, birthdays, group social gatherings. Greater social diversity outside the school environment creates additional risk and can affect the child’s school experience.
– students and staff can be protected at school by a number of mitigation measures during breaks, on the school bus, before and after school, etc. These measures include face covering if recommended, social distancing, and frequent hand washing.
– if a member of your household, student or adult, exhibits symptoms compatible with Covid-19, the individual should self-isolate and contact a general practitioner to schedule a test. You and other household members should stay home until the test results are known. Exercising this level of precaution could prevent an outbreak from happening in your school or among friends and family.
– if you are contacted by Public Health Mid-West, follow all recommendations and instructions to best ensure everyone’s safety and to minimize the spread of any infection.