Northern Ireland seems to be coming back to normalcy as Education settings will no longer be asked to carry out contact tracing of pupils following an agreement between the Departments of Education and Health. Contact tracing in schools will be taken forward primarily by the Public Health Agency’s (PHA) Contact Tracing Service, which brings Northern Ireland into line with that of England, Scotland and Wales.
Speaking on this the Education Minister Michelle McIlveen said: “I recognize the significant burden and challenges that principals have faced since the start of the new term in trying to support contact tracing in schools. I want to particularly acknowledge the incredible efforts of school leaders, staff and boards of governors in ensuring that effective contact tracing has been in place. Over the past few days, I have held meetings with the Minister of Health and his officials to urgently resolve this issue. It has been agreed that from tomorrow [Friday], the PHA’s Contact Tracing Service will take forward the work of contact tracing in schools without the significant level of involvement of school staff that has been the case, to date. Only those with the closest contact will be required to isolate and take a PCR test. This move is another step towards normality.”
Concluding, Minister McIlveen added: “Only in certain circumstances will a school be asked to assist. This change aims to result in fewer contacts being asked to isolate, and, importantly, reduces disruption to our children’s education. It also reflects the evidence that very small numbers of close contacts go on to be a positive case. This step will allow schools and other settings to focus on what they do best, which is to educate and support our children and young people.”
The Department will write to education settings this week to outline the changes in more detail.