From Monday, most primary school children and those in childcare facilities who are identified as close contacts of a confirmed case of Covid-19, but have no symptoms, will no longer have to restrict their movements, or get tested.

The automatic contact tracing of close contacts will also end, following advice from Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan.

Up to now, primary school children who were deemed a close contact of a confirmed case of Covid-19, have been required to restrict their movements, stay off school and get tested, if they had no symptoms.

It has proved disruptive for parents, children and employers.

New advice today from Dr Holohan which has been accepted by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will mean automatic, contact tracing, of close contacts of a confirmed case of Covid-19 in childcare facilities and primary education will end, but not in special education facilities.

Testing of close contacts, who have no symptoms in childcare facilities and primary education, will also end, but not for special education facilities.

Children aged 12 years or under, who are identified as close contacts in childcare, educational settings, special education settings, or other non-household settings, and who have no symptoms, will no longer be required to restrict movements, unless indicated by the local public health team.

For children aged 12 years or younger, who are identified as household close contacts in household settings, they will still be required to restrict movements and get tested, regardless of symptomatic status.

The overall public health advice remains that any child aged 12 years or under, who displays symptoms consistent with Covid-19, should rapidly self-isolate and not attend school or to socialise until 48 hours after they are symptom free.

"We have been closely monitoring the incidence of Covid-19 and we are reassured that that the reopening of schools has not led to an increase in transmission of Covid-19 amongst school-going children or more widely across the population," Dr Holohan said.

"As always, we will keep disease transmission in the population under review, but given the importance of education for our children we feel that now is the right time to evolve our approach to the public health management of COVID-19 in educational settings."


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Meanwhile, the General Secretary of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation has said the changes to contact tracing arrangements in primary schools "should be deferred until reliable data on outbreaks in primary schools is available".

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, John Boyle described the decision is "premature".

Mr Boyle said they would have preferred to see "proper data, stats to back up the decision and that the decision could have been communicated widely rather than causing a lot of confusion over the coming weekend".

He said the proposed changes should be implemented from 1 November onwards, after the "break of the mid term break".

The INTO said the new arrangements "could cause mass confusion for school principals, staff, parents and children".

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One, Chief Clinical Officer of the HSE Dr Colm Henry said that the changes from next Monday are in response to the changing profile of the disease, the evolving information on the virus and the awareness that serious illness in children is quite rare.

The close contact rules will also be relaxed for social and sporting groups.

National Clinical Director of Health Protection Dr John Cuddihy said children are rarely identified as the route of transmission of infection in to the household setting and children are not more likely than adults to spread infection to others.

Dr Cuddihy said that a child under 12 who is not fully vaccinated, will be considered a household contact, if they were present overnight in a house or residential setting while a person with Covid-19 was infectious in that house.