BY JACKIE KEOGH and
PARENTS in West Cork have been scrambling to book Covid tests this week as the virus began to emerge in the school population.
A number of local schools have had incidences of the virus and at least one large urban national school has had to close down a class after double digit Covid cases. A second class also had a confirmed case of the virus. A neighbouring school was also obliged to close a class.
This is replicated all over the region, especially among primary school pupils – who are not obliged to wear masks – making for a challenging start to the school year.
The rush on testing has resulted in the suspension of walk-in testing in Dunmanway’s screening centre and also in Cork city, until further notice. ‘The demand for tests at both screening centres has been significant in recent weeks,’ a HSE spokesperson said. ‘This has led to long waiting times for anyone attending as a walk-in, without an appointment.
‘We have taken the decision to temporarily suspend walk-in testing at the centres so that we can manage the demand for appointments, and continue to offer timely and efficient testing by appointment.’ Online self-referrals remain open and capacity has been extended to allow swabbing of 20,000 a day. Nationally testing for the virus was up 35% a day, at the start of the week.
Damien White, past president of the Irish Primary Principal’s Network, said this situation might have been anticipated.
In his experience, he said, parents are learning of cases through word-of-mouth and are organising their own tests before getting calls from the HSE contact tracing team.
The parent of one child – who was attending a playschool but was sent home and tested, after he was deemed a close contact – spoke to The Southern Star about the situation.
‘It’s crazy at the moment,’ he said. ‘All the kids are meeting. They are the ones who have not been vaccinated and they are the ones who don’t have to wear masks.
‘You can’t tell children in playschools to wear masks,’ he said, ‘but maybe the older kids in primary schools should be wearing them.’
But wearing masks might not be the answer either, he said, because students who wear them in class during the day don’t wear them in the morning or evening when they meet their friends outdoors.