The Taoiseach has said that the closure of schools until at least the end of the month may be necessary in order to combat the rapid growth of the virus and to reduce the movement of people in communities.
Speaking on RTÉ News At One ahead of the meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 this afternoon, Taoiseach Micheál Martin described the current situation of community transmission rates and growth of the virus as “very, very serious”.
The Taoiseach said that he had a range of discussions over the weekend with Director-General of the Health Service Executive, Paul Reid, the Chief Medical Officer, as well as party leaders and government officials to discuss the current situation.
“The rapid growth of this and spread of this has exceeded any expectation," he said, “and so there’s an agreed objective here across all of us that we have to suppress the virus and that will mean a significant reduction- a really, really significant reduction – in the mobility of people in this country, back to levels we last saw in March,” he said.
When asked if achieving reduced mobility while keeping schools opened was possible, the Taoiseach said that he was in agreement with the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan that there is an issue with having “a million people on the go”.
“The Chief Medical Officer and myself, are in agreement that there is an issue in terms of having a million people on the go, which is essentially what opening schools means,” he said," that a million people are out there in the community and giving the rapidity of the spread of the diseases and giving what we are witnessing elsewhere and in other jurisdictions in terms of that rapidity and that growth, one has to really measure the advisability of doing that.
"That is why it is on the agenda today that we will extend out the closure of schools to the end of the month.”
The Taoiseach, however, also stated that issues surrounding families of students with special needs upon closure of schools will also be discussed this afternoon, among other issues.
As stated during the announcement before Christmas, 31 January is set to remain as the review date of current restrictions and this will also include considering the situation with schools.
The Taoiseach said that he believes schools are safe, but the decision will be made in the context of the danger of the mobility of people in the midst of the surge in cases.
“It’s about the mobilization of a million people in the context of a very high level of disease out there in the community. That’s the context for the decision making now.”
"We have to be extra vigilant and extra careful and we also owe it to our frontline healthcare workers that the most effective way now to reduce hospitalizations in the coming period and the spread of the diseases, is literally to say to people, bar essential purposes, to stay at home,” he added.