Parents are facing into a “very disrupted winter” after the HSE confirmed that entire households will have to restrict their movements if a child is sent home from school for COVID-19 testing.
Tens of thousands of children around the country are today returning to school for the first time since late March.
The acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn has warned that public that there will be cases of coronavirus among schoolchildren in the coming year.
In an open letter this morning, he said the decision to reopen schools has not been taken lightly and is in the best interests of Ireland’s children.
On Lunchtime Live with Andrea Gilligan this afternoon, Dublin GP Matiú Ó Tuathill answered a host of listener questions on the return to school and what parents should do if their child is feeling unwell.
He said the unfortunate truth us that parents are facing a lot of disruption this winter.
“If a child or any member of your household has been referred for testing by your GP that means that every member of the household, which is mom, dad and other children in the house, have to restrict their movements until the result of that test comes back,” she said.
“If the test is negative, everything is fine but if the test is positive, then public health will be in contact and that is really important.
“Unfortunately, what that means is that it is going to be a disrupted winter for many households across the country.
He said parents will not be informed if a student in their child’s class is sent home with symptoms, noting that the reality is “a lot of kids are going to get sent home with a cough or a fever” this year.
“If we were to alert parents every time a child is sent home, that would lead to a huge amount of anxiety,” he said.
“In the vast majority of cases, the test results are going to come back negative and again, the GP might decide that this is not COVID and that the child just needs to stay at home for 48 hours.
“So, what will happen is, only if there is a positive case and public health deem that the parents of other children in the class need to be contacted, will parents find out.
“If a child in your class is sent home with a cough or a fever, you will not be informed.”
He said any child who is unwell enough to need medicine must remain at home for 48 hours.
“What the HSE are telling us is that if you feel your child is unwell enough to need Calpol or Nurofen – they might not have a fever but you just feel they need Calpol or Nurofen – then you need to keep them home for 48 hours.
“That is a big change because what we did in the past was kids would be given one or two doses of Calpol and sent on their way – we can’t do that anymore.
“That doesn’t mean that your whole house needs to stay at home but somebody would need to mind that child for 48 hours and that is a big change.”
He said parents are now permitted to self-certify their children as fit to attend school if they do not have obvious symptoms.
“It is your child,” he said. “If you are confident the child is teething, they don’t have a fever and there is no particular reason why they shouldn’t go to creche then you are allowed to self-certify that child.
“The reason we are doing that is, if we were to certify every single child in the country when they became mildly unwell, as GPS we would just completely come to a grinding to a halt.”
Dr Ó Tuathail said all GP consultations that are solely related to COVID-19 are free.
“If you contact your GP and it is either very clearly not COVID and nothing else is done or if it very clearly is potentially COVID and you need to get a test, there is no fee for that,” he said.
“But if you contact your GP and it ends up being something else, totally non-COVID-related, that you need to see your GP for, there may be a fee for that.”
Dr Ó Tuathail answered a whole range of different questions from parents on the return to school in his Lunchtime Live appearance.
You can listen back to the full conversation with Andrea Gilligan here: