Schools will reopen after mid-term as Covid-19 positivity rate 'much lower' than other settings

Schools will reopen after mid-term as Covid-19 positivity rate 'much lower' than other settings

Public health chiefs say they are not anticipating asking the Government to keep schools closed after mid-term break.

Public health chiefs say they are not anticipating asking the Government to keep schools closed after mid-term break.

Teachers' unions have expressed concerns about the reopening of schools if safety measures around Covid-19 are not improved.

But chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that based on current evidence, it is not envisioned that schools should not reopen as planned.

A National Public Health Emergency Team briefing on Tuesday heard that the positivity rate in primary schools is 2.7% and is 2.1% in post-primary - well below the community transmission rate of 10%.

Dr Heather Burns said part of the reason why the rate was higher in primary schools was because of the difficulty in implementing social distancing and other public health guidelines in those settings.

She said: "I suppose there is nuance in the data there, in terms of the ability to operationalise the public health guidance.

"In younger age groups, that can be more difficult, and in children with special educational needs, obviously it's more difficult to implement pod systems and physical distancing.

"That can also be the case at primary level. So with younger primary aged children, it can be more difficult to adhere to pod systems.

"But I think the most important overall message is how much lower it is than the positivity rate among close contacts out in the general community setting, which stands at about 10%.

"All the data we have to date back up the international position that schools are not high-risk environments for Covid-19."

On the concerns raised by teachers' unions, Dr Siobhan Ni Bhriain said supports are available for schools if they need them.

She said: "If there's any concern about an outbreak in a school, there are public health teams that come out nationally to deal with every single school.

"We accept that every single school can be different. Those supports are there for public health."

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