Micheál Martin has said the Government's target is to keep children in schools until the Christmas break, and then reassess 'how we deal with the next semester'.
He made the remarks as the Government announced new measures for children aged nine and over.
In the guidelines released on Tuesday evening, parents are being asked to prioritise their children’s activities and limit indoor community gatherings and indoor mixed household gatherings.
For the next two weeks, parents were being asked to reduce socialisation indoors for children aged 12 and younger.
“Parents are being asked to prioritise their children’s activities – minimising indoor community gatherings and indoor mixed household gatherings; reducing the risk of exposure to the virus by opting for outdoor activities instead of indoor; and reducing the number of children involved in any particular activity,” according to a statement issued on Tuesday.
Speaking about the Covid-19 situation in schools, n the Dail on Tuesday afternoon, Taoiseach Micheal Martin told TDs: “The target now is to get to the Christmas break, recalibrate, review how we deal with the next semester.
Mr Martin said that if children were displaying any symptoms, they should not be in school and said the level of cases among five to 11-year-olds was “through the roof”.
Masks and face coverings are also being recommended for children.
Children aged nine and above are being asked to wear masks on public transport, shops and in other indoor settings – bringing the rules in line with those that currently apply to children aged 13 and above.
Children in third class and above were also being asked to wear masks in primary school, with guidance set to be issued by the Department of Education.
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health said:
Dr Holohan acknowledged the new measures are not what 'any of us want to hear, particularly at this time of year'.
The new guidelines were announced as a further 5,471 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed. A total of 579 Covid-19 patients are currently hospitalised, of whom 122 are in ICU.