REOPENING schools is “among the safest things” that can be done in the next few months, the Taoiseach has said.
His comments came as the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) said children were not substantially contributing to the spread of Covid-19 in their households or in schools.
Hiqa published summaries investigating the international evidence on immunity and the spread of the virus by children.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris spoke with Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday about the Hiqa report.
Mr Varadkar said Dr Ryan was of the view “that the emerging evidence is that among the safest things that we can do over the next couple of months, is to reopen our schools, to reopen our childcare facilities, to allow children to return to education and return to normal life”.
Schools and childcare facilities have been closed since March, but he hinted that schools could open ahead of September in light of the new evidence.
“I think it wouldn’t be a good reflection on us, as a society, for us to be the last people who are able to reopen our schools and reopen our childcare facilities,” he said.
“We need to make sure we do it safely and work with the education sector and the childcare sector to make sure that it’s possible — but it is encouraging that there is growing evidence that those who are at least risk from the virus are children, young people ... they don’t appear to be super-spreaders, and I think that is very significant.”
Hiqa deputy CEO Dr Máirín Ryan said: “One study suggests that, while there is high transmission of Covid-19 among adults aged 25 years or older, transmission is lower in younger people, particularly in those under 14 years of age.”
Asked if grandparents would be able to visit their grandchildren this summer, Mr Varadkar said: “I think those things — assuming everything else goes in the right direction — will be possible over the course of the summer, but won’t be among the actions being announced for Monday.”