FAQs for School Principals, Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) Managers or those hosting sports/social activities for children ages 3 months to less than 13 years, or in primary school. 23/09/21

These FAQs are to support the implementation of the decision announced by the Minister of
Health, in line with recommendations from NPHET that from Monday September 27th routine
contact tracing of asymptomatic close contacts in children >3 months -13 years, including for
those attending primary educational and ELC/SAC settings will no longer take place. As per
updated contact tracing guidance Contact tracing under 13s.pdf (hpsc.ie), it is now
recommended that:
 Anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19 should self-isolate at home immediately and
contact their GP for advice and guidance, and to arrange a Covid-19 test if appropriate.
 All children should attend for vaccination when eligible.
 Automatic contact tracing is no longer recommended for children aged > 3months to under
13 years of age who are asymptomatic but were close contacts of cases outside of
household settings and vulnerable settings (e.g. Special Educational Needs (SENs),
respite/ residential care).
 Testing of asymptomatic non-household close contacts >3 months to under 13 years is
discontinued with a focus on clinically relevant disease. There will be transition to testing
for public health action and surveillance as indicated on public health or clinical grounds.
 Children >3 months to under 13 years of age, who are identified as a close contact in nonhousehold settings and who are asymptomatic will no longer be routinely required to
restrict movements, unless advised by Public Health Risk Assessment. This applies
regardless of the number of confirmed cases identified in the non-household settings.
 Cases and outbreaks in Special Educational Needs settings, and respite care should have
a public health risk assessment (PHRA) which may still require children to be identified as
close contacts in these settings, be referred for testing and have their movements
restricted. Generally, the advice for those children who are close contacts in these settings
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will be to have one test (if possible) and if they are advised to restrict movements, it will be
for 5 days.
 Children > 3 months to under 13 years of age who are identified as household contacts
who are not fully vaccinated, or have not had a confirmed infection with Covid-19 in the
last 9 months, will still be required to restrict their movements and will have testing
arranged for them by the HSE contact management programme (CMP) .
 Public Health advice remains the same that any child > 3 months to under 13 years of age
with symptoms consistent with Covid-19 should immediately self-isolate, should not attend
childcare or school or socialise and follow current public health advice. Please see here
for further information.
 It is important to adhere to good respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene practice and also
adhere to the general public health measures and physical distancing advice.
 Please ensure that appropriate measures are taken to improve ventilation in facilities where
ventilation is identified as being inadequate following a risk assessment. Adequate
ventilation of indoor spaces, either through natural ventilation (i.e. opening windows and
external doors) or by mechanical means (e.g. central air-conditioning unit) is extremely
important.
What does the above mean for my school / facility /
group?
This means that for any case of Covid-19 that has been in attendance at your facility or
group whilst they were infectious, you will no longer be contacted by Public Health and a
Public Health Risk Assessment (PHRA) will not be routinely undertaken to identify close
contacts.
Furthermore, it means that when this change is implemented, children aged between 3
months and 13 years, who have already been identified as a close contact through a nonhousehold and non-SEN setting and are asymptomatic, can end their restricted movements
and return to school / clubs / facilities etc. They will not be required to attend for any test that
might have been organised for them. For children identified as close contacts within the SEN
setting, if a PHRA indicates that restriction of movements is warranted, it will generally be for
5 days. (see below). For children who are household contacts, they will continue to be asked
to restrict their movements and be referred for Covid-19 testing, as per normal processes.
The focus is now on ensuring that children with new symptoms consistent with Covid-19 do
not attend your facilities, or if identified, are isolated and removed from the facility, pending
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home observation and contact with their GP. The child’s GP will refer for Covid-19 testing, or
organise any other appropriate testing for their symptoms, as necessary.
When will these changes be implemented?
These changes will be implemented on Monday 27th of September.
Why have these changes been made?
These changes have been made because:
1) Effective vaccines against Covid-19 are now available and a robust vaccination
programme is underway in Ireland for children aged 12 years and older. Although
precautions to prevent introduction and spread of the virus are still required, vaccines have
been proven to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and reduce the risk of severe disease and
or hospitalisation.
2) As well as vaccination, the primary way to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is
by implementing a series of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), such as physical
distancing, wearing of a face covering and frequent hand hygiene. Increasingly the
importance of improving ventilation in reducing transmission, especially in closed
environments, has been understood and implemented either through natural ventilation
(i.e. opening windows and external doors) or by mechanical means (e.g. central air-conditioning unit). These recommendations still stand and are required for implementation
in all settings.
3) Social, sporting, ELC/SAC and educational facilities are communities providing not only
for the care and educational needs of children, but also many of their holistic, health and
pastoral needs. Within these settings social interaction and physical activity can be learned
and occur in a place of safety, support and warmth. Therefore, routine exclusions of
asymptomatic children should now not be undertaken in light of the impact of the national
vaccination programme, our continued understanding of the effectiveness of the NPIs and
the impact of infection on children and disease transmission between children; and
between children and adults. For further information please see Contact tracing under
13s.pdf (hpsc.ie)
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Does this guidance change apply to the special
educational needs sector?
This change in guidance does not apply to special educational needs schools or SEN
specific classes or children attending respite care. In these circumstances close contacts
amongst children may well still be identified and asked to restrict their movements, following
a Public Health Risk Assessment. However, they will generally be requested only to restrict
their movements for 5 days, and be referred for one Covid-19 test. This is to balance the
observation period required for children for signs of infection, with testing at the most
relevant time, whilst not prolonging restricted movements and the harms to children from
these restrictions.
Does this guidance change apply to children who are
household close contacts?
This guidance does not apply to children living in the same household as a case of Covid-19.
Unvaccinated children, with no confirmed previous infection with Covid-19, in these
circumstances will still be identified as close contacts and asked to restrict their movements,
in line with national guidance.
* The definition of a household contact, will now include a child aged under 13 years, who was
present over-night, in the house or in close contact in a residential setting, of a case whilst
they were infectious i.e., any child who was attending a ‘sleepover’ when someone in the
household was infectious with Covid-19, will also be designated a close-contact and required
to restrict their movements and be tested.
Will any close contacts be identified from a case of
Covid-19 in a child aged 3months – 13 years, or in
primary school?
Yes. Close contacts of the case in a child between these ages will be identified through the
HSE contact management programme. They will identify only those within household
settings as close contacts, including children, as the transmission is higher in household
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settings. This will include children who were staying overnight in the house as part of a sleep
over or similar. Children in this situation will be asked to restrict their movements and
undertake testing for Covid-19, in line with national guidance.
What should I do if I am aware that someone has
tested positive for Covid-19 in my school / facility /
club etc?
If you are aware that someone 3 months to 13 years, or a child attending primary school has
recently tested positive for Covid-19, you do not now need to take any specific actions,
with regard to discussing with HSE / Public Health.
You should ensure that, as always,
1) You are vigilant to anyone developing new symptoms or unwell within your facility with
symptoms of Covid-19 and isolate them as normal until a parent can safely collect them.
2) That all your recommended infection prevention control and mitigation measures e.g.
pods, physical distancing where appropriate, face-covering use where required,
ventilation, hand hygiene, encouragement of respiratory etiquette etc are all in place
3) Following the specific PH guidance for your school, facility, activity with regard to e.g.
singing, music etc
Should I tell parents of the class / School / Group if I
am aware that someone has tested positive for
Covid-19?
From a public health perspective there is no clinical need for information to be shared with
contacts of cases, therefore Public Health do not recommend that you tell parents of other
children that there has been a case of Covid-19 within your class / facility / group. Any
sharing of health data is therefore not being undertaken on the advice of Public Health and
under the Infectious Disease Regulations, as it will have been to date. At all times it is
important that families are aware of the need to ensure they do not send children in to
facilities/activities if they have new symptoms consistent with Covid-19, that in these
circumstances they should observe their child and contact their GP as appropriate. It is also
important to regularly re-enforce the benefit to all of continuing to abide by infection
prevention control and mitigation measures in place within your facility.
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We note that information often gets shared by certain groups (WhatsApp etc) and wish to
remind of the importance that an individual’s confidentiality is not broken by others, in line
with normal GDPR requirements. It is also important that children and families do not feel
targeted or pressured to release information.
Will the HSE Principals line and CCF line still remain
open?
Over a short transition period from routine PHRA and contact tracing, to this new phase
being embarked upon in the country which sees less routine contact tracing of asymptomatic
people, these lines will still be available for queries with regard to Covid-19 confirmed cases.
However, only for Principals of SEN schools or a facility with an SEN class, will a PHRA be
undertaken. Generic advice, as per information available to principals and within this FAQ
document, will be the information provided for all other settings.
Reminder of core important information:
Vaccination:
Q. Who are recommended to have Covid-19 vaccines?
A. The National Immunisation Advisory Committee make recommendations for vaccinations
to the Department of Health. Currently, all those aged 12 and above are eligible and
recommended for Covid-19 vaccination. Further information on national Covid-19
vaccination recommendations are available at https://www2.hse.ie/screening-andvaccinations/covid-19-vaccine/
Q. What happens if someone is identified as a close contact but is fully vaccinated?
(This will apply to staff in settings)
A. Currently the national guidance is that someone who is fully vaccinated does not need to
restrict their movements or undertake routine testing for Covid-19, as long as they have no
symptoms of Covid-19. If they know they are fully vaccinated, they will not be required to
restrict their movements, pending contact with the HSE, as long as they have no symptoms
of Covid-19.
Q. Are Principals / Managers / Sports / Social activities providers expected to know
who is vaccinated amongst their attendees?
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A. No. This is private health information and the HSE ascertains this information as required
and keeps it confidential.
Previous confirmed infection with Covid-19:
Those who have had a previous confirmed infection with Covid-19, within the past 9 months
will not be required to restrict their movements or be tested, as long as they have no
symptoms of Covid-19. This will apply to children identified as close contacts within the
household setting, or after a PHRA for a specific facility e.g. SEN school or class.
Do children / staff who have no symptoms need to
restrict their movements if someone in the house
has symptoms of Covid-19 and is awaiting testing or
result?
Yes, unless they are fully vaccinated or have had a confirmed Covid-19 infection within the
past 9 months.
Pods:
Q. Do ‘pods’ still need to be organised and implemented?
A. Yes. We have asked children to be in pods as per last year and that indoors these pods
are kept in place as much as possible. This is to ensure that the number of people (adults
and children) who are in close contact with a case of Covid-19 is as limited as possible, and
therefore the risks to others (albeit that the risks are low within a class setting) are kept to
the lowest number. This year we have asked that close friends might sit together to reflect
national guidance that people are not as restricted in activities and play dates out of school
and therefore it is important this occurs to further enable the number of close contacts and
those at onward risk are kept as low as possible within the community.
Close contact testing:
Q. If a child or adult is identified as a close contact within your facility / school / group
– has the period of restricted movements required of a pupil/student or staff member
deemed to be a “close contact” who are not vaccinated changed?
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A. Unvaccinated children and adults who are household contacts , who have not had a
recent confirmed infection of Covid-19 (in the previous 9 months) are still required to restrict
their movements for 14 days and the HSE will refer them for 2 free Covid-19 tests.
Restricted movements can end after ten days with a Not Detected result and providing they
have no symptoms.
However, for children designated close contacts after a PHRA in a specific setting such as
an SEN class or school, these children will generally be asked to restrict their movements for
5 days and will be referred for 1 test. This is to balance the observation period required for
children for signs of infection, with testing at the most relevant time, whilst not prolonging
restricted movements and the harms to children from restrictions and potential regression
associated with exclusions, for children with greatest needs.
It is important to note that in the months since the Covid-19 pandemic has occurred, we have
learned that:
 Children seem more likely than adults to have no symptoms or to have mild disease.
Please see here for information on symptoms
 Investigation of cases identified in school settings suggest that child to child
transmission in schools is uncommon and not the primary cause of Sars-CoV-2
infection in children, particularly in preschool and primary educational settings
 Children are rarely identified as the route of transmission of infection in to the
household setting
 Children are not more likely than adults to spread infection to other people.