The Social Democrats have called for mobile Covid-19 testing units to be rolled out for schools to help identify outbreaks and prevent widespread closures in the event of clusters emerging.

Gary Gannon TD, the party’s Education spokesperson, said:

“As primary and secondary schools start to reopen this week, there is understandable anxiety among parents, students, teachers, SNAs and non-teaching staff about the risks involved.

“We need to look at models being adopted in the UK and parts of the United States where mobile testing units can be dispatched to schools where there are suspected outbreaks. This will allow for schools to respond proportionately and rapidly to any clusters and make informed decisions about containment and localised closures.

“Schools would then be able to carry out risk assessments to establish if confirmed cases are related to specific classes or particular parts of the building.

“I am concerned at reports that the HSE plans to leave sufficient capacity for schools within its weekly testing limit of 100,000, which could see a reduction in tests at other high-risk settings. Specific testing for school staff and students should be carried out in addition to the current weekly targets, preferably through the deployment of mobile units.”

Jennifer Whitmore TD, Social Democrats spokesperson on Children, said:

“Mobile testing units can be more reactive in the event of suspected clusters. A rapid and effective tracing system would help assuage the genuine fears of parents as their children return to school.

“If our education system is to function effectively during this pandemic, testing and tracing will be key to keeping our schools open and ensuring the safety of students and staff.

“The Government needs to be proactive by providing mobile testing units as it would be a disaster for children and parents if we saw widespread school closures in the weeks and months ahead.”

August 25, 2020

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