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24 Jan 2022

Limerick schools ‘in crisis’ as Covid-19 cases surge

Limerick schools ‘in crisis’ as Covid-19 cases surge

SCHOOLS across Limerick may close and classes continue to be sent home over a lack of teachers, a local union official has warned.

As Covid-19 cases continue to rise in Limerick and across the country, with more than 2,000 local instances reported in the last fortnight, Laura Quirke, the press officer for the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) in Limerick, says the primary education sector is “in crisis”.

It comes as the latest figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) reveals a dramatic rise in children aged between five and 12 testing positive for coronavirus last week.

There’s also been a jump in Covid cases among the 35 to 44 year old age bracket – largely parents of primary school children.

“I’m aware of children who have had to be sent home because they were ill. If a child presents with symptoms  I have to bring them to an isolation room. It means I’m not available to teach that class until the child is collected and I have to clean that room,” Ms Quirke said.

The Leader has been made aware of retired teachers being called back to help plug the many job gaps in Limerick, with Ms Quirke adding: “Supply panels have been set up but there are not enough teachers. I know principals who have tried 30, 40, 50 different numbers and only three or four will answer. Most have a voicemail saying we have work for the week, please try someone else.”

As and from today, children aged nine and over are required to wear face coverings when attending school, in shops and on public transport.

Elsewhere, Public Health Mid-West says while there were no laboratory-confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in the region as of this Tuesday, it is keeping the situation under review.

However, the department reiterated its warning over the Delta variant, which it described as “the current dominant strain of this virus”.

“This is highly infectious and is having a negative impact on our health services at present. The latest data represents a concerning trend of increasing infection rates across the region, contributing to a widespread circulation of Covid-19 in all pockets of society. Should current levels of social activity persist, cases will continue to rise,” warned a spokesperson.

Following the discovery of the new Covid-19 strain, Chamber president and hotelier -Donnacha Hurley says his establishment has lost “tens of thousands of euro” worth of bookings.

And he fears larger hotels will have lost yet more.

He's also expressed huge concerns for the future of businesses which would rely on a busy festive season to offset a quiet January.

“Many businesses will depend on the push they get over Christmas to keep them going in the beginning of the New Year. Without that Christmas push, it leaves our businesses and their cashflow in a significantly risky area,” he told the Limerick Leader.

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