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Statement on disinformation about COVID-19 and schools

With the recent reopening of schools, there have been messages circulating via social media, particularly Facebook and WhatsApp, that contain rumours and misinformation about powers given via the Coronavirus Act. These mainly centre on the notion that either schools or the Government has the power to detain children displaying symptoms of COVID-19 for up to 14 days without seeking parental permission.

To be absolutely clear, under the Coronavirus Act, the screening or assessment of a child for COVID-19 can only be carried out by a Public Health Official and in the presence of their parent, carer, or guardian.

  • The powers set out in the Coronavirus Act allow the impositions of restrictions on a person suspected of having coronavirus if they are not voluntarily complying with public health advice.
  • These powers are only for Public Health Officials and only to be used as a last resort.
  • These powers are only to be used if considered necessary and in the interests of the person, for the protection of others, or the maintenance of public health.
  • A Public Health Official does not have the power to screen and assess a minor for coronavirus without a parent, carer or guardian present.
  • After an assessment, a Public Health Official may place appropriate restrictions. These powers include asking the child and their family to self-isolate at home for up to 14 days in order to stop the spread of coronavirus.
  • If you are unable to self-isolate at home, alternative arrangements can be discussed with the Public Health Official.
  • If you feel that the restrictions imposed upon your child is unfair, you have the right of appeal in the magistrates’ court.