Covid-19: Mass testing in childcare centres reveals 12.5% positivity rate

Infection rate higher than in schools due to younger children not adhering to the rules

Positive Covid-19 cases from mass testing in childcare facilities stands at 12.5 per cent, according to latest Health Service Executive figures.

A total of 51 Covid-19 cases were detected in childcare facilities in the week up to January 30th. In total, 407 tests were carried out across 43 such centres with a positivity rate of 12.5 per cent. This is up slightly on the previous week’s 10 per cent and significantly above the average recorded since last August (5.7 per cent).

At present childcare facilities remain open for children of essential workers and vulnerable young.

The Government closed primary and secondary schools in early January due to surging infections and safety concerns from school-staff unions.


The pre-school (ECCE) programme has also been suspended during the Level 5 lockdown.

The positivity rate from mass testing has generally been higher in childcare facilities than in schools, in part due to difficulties with younger children adhering to social distancing and other measures.

During the week January 24th to 30th, health authorities detected a total of 51 positive Covid-19 cases from 407 tests across 43 childcare facilities. Of those positive cases, most (69 per cent) were among children while the remainder (31 per cent) were among staff.

Separately, the special education sector is set to reopen partially from this Thursday for the first time since the Christmas holidays

Special schools open on February 11th with 50 per cent student attendance, while special classes in mainstream primary schools are due to reopen fully to all pupils from February 22nd. But there is still no date agreed for when in-school teaching will resume for hundreds of thousands of children in mainstream primary classes.

When will schools reopen?

Sources involved in discussions say they believe primary schools will be in a position to reopen from early March, possibly Monday, March 1st.

The question of whether all classes will resume or whether there will be a phased return of year groups is still under discussion and will depend on the public health situation.

School staff unions are understood to be open to a full reopening if virus transmission rates are low. “If case numbers are low, we can be more ambitious with reopening,” said one source involved in talks.

Government sources and unions are hopeful that secondary schools will reopen on a phased basis from late February to mid-March. It is likely exam year groups – such as Leaving Certs – will be prioritised along with students with additional needs, followed by the remainder of secondary students.

However, a full reopening of secondary schools in one go may also be on the cards if virus transmission rates remain low. This is due to logistical hurdles facing schools in trying to organise timetables for in-person and remote teaching.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent