The number of nurseries and daycares affected by Covid-19 has climbed by 500 pc in just six weeks as the virus spreads in communities across the country.
In total, 98 daycares have seen cases of Covid in just over two weeks, with childcare centers now accounting for nearly one in 10 virus detection in children under four years old.
The Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed yesterday to Dáil that antigenic tests will now be extended to nurseries and Montessoris. The scheme begins in schools from Monday. He said the tests will be “fine-tuned” for the “early childhood sector”.
Meanwhile, data from Tusla, HSE, and the Health Protection Surveillance Center viewed by the Independent Irish revealed that Covid-19 notification rates have increased by more than 500 pc in daycares in the past six weeks.
Notifications went from 33 in early October to 226 for the week ending November 12.
Over the same period, the number of affected wards more than doubled – from 43 to 98 – with some crèches struggling to stay open due to illness or staff isolation.
During a six-week period from early October to mid-November, the number of cases detected in early learning and child care facilities represented nearly one in 10 (8.6 pc) of the total number of children under the age of four who have contracted the virus. .
Public health officials have insisted that children catch the virus in the community and at home, not in schools and nurseries.
However, educators feel they are exposed given the end of contact tracing in September.
It emerged that, in a nursery, 13 children in a class tested positive for Covid-19 after an adult caregiver complained of not feeling well. All the children were found to be asymptomatic.
However, the caregiver – who allegedly contracted the virus from a child – was very ill, although he did not require hospitalization.
Three of the facility’s four adult care workers subsequently tested positive for the virus.
Child care providers have warned they need urgent government support, given pressure from the alarming spike in virus cases.
Paula Donohoe, member of the Association of Childcare Professionals (ACP) national board of directors, called for the immediate reintroduction of testing and contact tracing in child care settings.
“Antigen testing is a step in the right direction, but the full restoration of contact tracing is the only way to say for sure that we actually catch all cases,” she said.
Some daycare operators have warned their area has felt “forgotten” in recent weeks.
An ACP member pointed out that even if the government successfully rolls out the juvenile Covid-19 vaccine to people aged five to 12 at the start of the new year, nursery nurses will still largely care for unvaccinated children under five years.
The European Medicines Agency is due to rule on the use of vaccines for children next week. However, the Taoiseach said that even if the juvenile vaccine was given the green light, it was unlikely to be rolled out here for use before Christmas.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Norma Foley announced a series of emergency measures to address the staff crisis in primary schools caused by Covid-19. They will run until the mid-term break in February.
In addition to an agreement with postgraduate colleges to facilitate the release of student teachers to work in classrooms, professional development courses for teachers where a submarine is required are suspended until after the holidays. February to help maintain staffing levels.
Teacher trainers who are seconded to the support services of the Ministry of Education to deliver these courses return to fill in the gaps in the classrooms.
Another 200 primary teaching posts are created on supply boards from which schools can find replacements for unforeseen and short-term absences. This is in addition to the 100 messages allowed a month ago and brings the total number of signs to 680.
In an incentive to get more retired teachers back to class, they can now work until the end of that term without any consequences for their retirement.
Other measures include allowing newly qualified teachers who secure positions on supply boards during the 2021/2022 school year to complete the Droichead induction program.
In exceptional circumstances where there is no undercoverage available, teachers, known as Treorai, who host students on internship, may provide undercoverage for very short absences in their work. own school.