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School nativity plays need vaccine passports to gain entry, principal warns

Covid vaccine passports will be required for parents who wish to attend a nativity play in a Co Antrim primary schoool, its principal has insisted
Seanín Graham

VACCINE passports will be required to attend Christmas nativity plays in a Co Antrim primary school to stem rocketing Covid infections, a principal has warned.

Liam McGuckin, who is based at Greenisland primary, said this was "the worst week yet" for schools in relation to outbreaks and also called for 'open days' to be scrapped.

Cases among children were spreading "like a spider's web".

The school chief told The Irish News they closed three classes before Halloween - for one day only to carry out deep-cleans - after pupils tested positive.

But he expressed fears that new cases among teaching and support staff could severely impact on classrooms staying open due to a chronic lack of 'sub' teachers.

He revealed he phoned 74 subs on Tuesday but that no-one was available.

"If you have an open day - or heaven forbid, an open night - you could bring in 80 people. You don't know who they are, if they're positive or negative. You're bringing them into different rooms. The knock-on effect is that your teacher is potentially infected that night. If you bring children in from your own school, the cross contamination goes on. Somebody has to take the bullet and say - they're banned," Mr McGuckin said.

"The same potentially goes for nativity plays. We have plays planned for December with limited numbers, probably 60 in the hall. But we may have to pull the plug on it unless they show Covid passports.

"If they don't show the passports they're not getting in. We will absolutely be asking for them. If I walk into the Ulster Hall or The Waterfront I will be asked for it. In fairness, I think most people will oblige but the government need to take the lead in this."

Latest surveillance data from the Public Health Agency (PHA) only goes to November 7 and shows that in the 28 days up until then there were 9,818 confirmed Covid cases reported to its ' Contact Tracing Cell' (CTC) in relation to pupils or school staff.

More than 55 per cent were linked to primary schools.

Last week some teaching unions raised concerns about the impact of Covid on P7 pupils sitting transfer tests, which take place over three consecutive Saturdays and began last week.

Mr McGuckin said some P7 pupils were being taught remotely, as their parents had chosen to keep them off school so they were well enough to do the 11-Plus style exam.

The Public Health Agency said: “The PHA will continue to work with colleagues in the Education Authority, Department of Education and Department of Health to help reduce the spread of COVID -19 within the school community and help ensure appropriate mitigations are in place.”

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