Three Offaly schools linked to Covid-19 cases already this week

Virus impacts on secondary and primary schools in Tullamore

Gearoid Keegan


Gearoid Keegan

Two more Offaly schools now linked to Covid-19 cases

Close contacts will have to be tested for Covid-19

THREE schools in Tullamore have now been linked with Covid-19 this week as the infection incidence rate rises across the county.

Parents of some students at one secondary school were asked on Monday to bring their children for coronavirus testing and restrict their movements.

Close contacts of a person at the Sacred Heart School who tested positive for Covid-19 must not attend school for 14 days.

Further movement restrictions include a ban on taking part in group activities or visiting childcare facilities, using public transport, visiting other people's homes, or having visitors to their home.

Public health officials told parents of close contacts that the risk of their child becoming infected is low and even if a child does become infected, most children don't get any symptoms, or they have a very mild illness.

The restriction on movement is up to, and including, Wednesday, October 14 next.

Families have been told to expect a call from HSE contact tracers and a letter from HSE public health also said a child might need “one or two tests”, with the number of tests dependent on when they were last in contact with the person with Covid-19.

In addition to attendance at a medical appointment, close contacts are permitted outside for exercise on condition they keep a two-metre distance from others.

A child who develops symptoms must be isolated at home and must “completely avoid contact with other people”, including those in their own household.

Another secondary school contacted parents to inform them of a confirmed case in the school community but said the HSE had determined there was no onward risk.

“After a risk assessment, the HSE has determined that there are no close contacts or onward risk in the school,” a text to parents of students at Colaiste Choilm said.

A Tullamore primary school confirmed it is engaging with the HSE on a public health risk assessment and close contacts were requested not to come to school.

Bridget Clear, principal of St Philomena's National School said the school could not comment on individual cases or outbreaks to protect the privacy and confidentiality of those involved.

A statement from Ms Clear added: “The school can confirm we have engaged with the HSE. The HSE role is to carry out a Public Health Risk Assessment. As part of this risk assessment, all close contacts will be identified, contacted and advised of the next steps.

“Close contacts are requested not to come to school in line with HSE Public Health advice. The school will continue to work with the HSE ensuring all necessary hygiene, health and safety protocols are in place at the school for the prevention and containment of Covid-19.

“I would like to compliment all the staff, pupils and parents for their co-operation in adhering to all protocols contained in our School Response Plan as devised by our Board of Management.”

The 14-day incidence rate of Covid-19 in Offaly is rising rapidly, according to data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Offaly now has the ninth-highest incidence rate in the country according to data covering the period from September 21 to October 4. The county's 14-day rate now stands at 100.1 having stood at 66.7 just last Thursday, October 1.

Offaly had 52 new cases confirmed in the final two weeks of September but in the latest period available from September 21 to October 4, the county has seen 78 new cases.

Nine counties now have a 14-day incidence rate above 100, including Offaly. This number was just three counties last week.

On the hospital front, the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore now has seven confirmed cases on-site, according to data from Monday, October 5. Beyond that, they only have one suspected case. One patient with Covid-19 is being treated in ICU in Tullamore.

The latest 14-day incidence rate for electoral area was last updated on September 28 and showed a steep increase for Tullamore in particular.

The figures show that the incidence rate of the virus has more than tripled in the Tullamore Electoral Area compared to the two week period from September 1 to September 14. 

There were 96 cases per 100,000 people in the Tullamore Area from September 15 to September 28 with a total of 28 cases confirmed over the two weeks. 

The rate for the Tullamore Area from September 8 to September 21 was 54.9. In the figures released on September 14, the incidence rate per 100,000 for Tullamore was just 30.9 meaning it more than tripled in the following two weeks. 

In the same period, the incidence rate for the Edenderry Electoral Area remained consistent. According to figures to the end of September, the rate was 51.4 cases per 100,000 with 12 new cases confirmed in that time. 

In the Birr Electoral Area, the incidence rate was continuing downwards at the end of September. With a population in the Birr electoral area of 25,476, the incidence rate of 90.3 per 100,000 for the first two weeks of September was concerning but it more than halved by September 21 to a rate of 39.3 per 100,000.