Will schools be safe? Teachers call for assurances as case numbers rise 

Will schools be safe? Teachers call for assurances as case numbers rise 

The Association of Secondary School Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) has written to the Minister for Education Norma Foley in recent days. 

SECONDARY school teachers are looking for assurances that it will be safe for schools to reopen following the spike in Covid-19 numbers and the confirmation of a new variant in Ireland which may be more infectious among young people.

The Association of Secondary School Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) has written to the Minister for Education Norma Foley in recent days and ASTI president Ann Piggott told The Echo her members need reassurance.

Ireland’s chief medical officer yesterday expressed concern at the continued rise of case numbers and hospitalisations.

Nphet reported one further death and an additional 765 cases, 63 of them in Cork. There were 359 Covid-19 positive patients in hospital in Ireland.

Dr Tony Holohan said the numbers come despite fewer people turning out for testing over the Christmas period.

“Hospitalisations have increased sharply in the last two days,” Dr Holohan said.  “We are also seeing a steep rise in the positivity rates in community testing. 

"This indicates that the virus is increasing its foothold out in our communities.”

Speaking to The Echo, Ms Piggott said ASTI are calling for assurance that schools will remain safe when they reopen after the Christmas break, and said they are particularly concerned about the new UK variant.

Dr Holohan confirmed at the weekend that the variant has been detected in Ireland, but it is not yet known how widespread it is.

“We asked that the Government would consult extensively with Nphet before schools open,” Ms Pigott said.

“We’d like them to do something now. 

 ."Really we want assurances that schools will continue to remain safe places for teachers and students to work in in the new year in the context of the new strain of the virus.”

GP hopes schools can remain open 

Meanwhile, a Cork GP has warned that if the new variant proves to be more infectious among children, schools may have to double down on safety measures. Dr John Sheehan has said that the weeks after Christmas may be “the real worrying time”.

“If this does tend to be more infectious in children that will put more pressure on schools [who] will have to double down on measures and hand hygiene and social distancing,” he said.

However, Dr Sheehan has said that that if a decision is made to close schools, it could have a negative impact on the development of children.

“My real concern is I have come across some kids who haven’t been to school since September because the parents are concerned about Covid and that has a huge long-term effect on children, both in terms of their education but also in terms of their ability to interact with other people and their peers.

“My hope would be that we can keep the schools open and so far, the rate of infectivity in schools has been much, much lower than the general population.”

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