A CORK GP has moved to allay the concerns of parents whose children are returning to school in the coming days, and says the benefits of going to school outweigh the risks.
Dr Mary Favier, President of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) said parents were understandably anxious as they prepare to send their children back to school for the first time in almost six months.
“For many, many parents presenting to GPs, they really can't wait to send their children back to school because they know it is better for them, but they are concerned understandably,” she said.
The Cork GP stressed that for the vast majority of generally healthy children, “they are fine to go school”.
“Parents are anxious and it is an understandable anxiety considering they’ve been off school for six months,” she said.
However, Dr Favier added: “For the generally healthy child, the risks are very low and the risks of not going to school are substantially higher if they don't get an education, whether it is the traditional reading, writing, arithmetic, but also their psychological and social wellbeing.”
The ICGP President pointed out that approximately 200 cases of Covid-19 have been identified in children over the past four weeks and said more cases will be identified.
“We are going to have cases of Covid into the future [in children] and indeed teachers will have Covid, but they won't necessarily have originated in the schools,” she said.
Dr Favier acknowledged that it is not just parents who may be anxious about returning to school and said there are steps parents can take to prepare their children.
“It’s important to listen to children. Prepare them, roleplay it a little bit in terms of what is going to happen.
"With older children, help them with wearing a mask, accept that it takes a little while to get used to it, incentivise them to wear a mask.
“But the most important thing for small children is to wash their hands, to show them how to wash their hands, remind them how to wash their hands, and play games with them when they wash their hands, sing songs when they wash their hands.
“The last thing you do before you leave in the morning to go to school is everyone washes their hands and the first thing that everybody does when they come in from school is wash their hands. Those kinds of repeated messages are really important in small children,” she said.