A CORK TD has added his voice to calls for schools to close this Friday amid concerns over the volume of cases of Covid-19 being reported.
Yesterday, 3,887 new cases of the virus were reported with Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer, Department of Health, saying that results suggest that approximately 14% of cases are due to the Omicron variant.
“In line with the experience of many other countries, we can expect this proportion to rise rapidly over the coming days.
“The goal now is to limit the spread of Covid-19 through our tried and tested preventive measures. These measures can protect us and our families and will allow time for the booster vaccination programme to take effect,” the CMO said in a statement.
“This means that as we move closer to Christmas, we must try to reduce the number of people we meet, avoid crowds and work from home unless it is essential to attend in person.”
Socialist Party and Solidarity TD for Cork North Central Mick Barry said he believed schools should be shut this week as part of efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.
“I think the schools should be shut on Friday and not reopened next week. Taking this step can prevent hundreds if not thousands of Omicron infections among young people who will be spending Christmas with parents and grandparents.
“A longer ‘circuit break’ holiday now will increase the chances of being able to reopen the schools in January. No doubt it would prove difficult for many working parents next week but not nearly as difficult as if the schools simply can’t reopen in January,” he said.
Cork GP and Fianna Fáil councillor Dr John Sheehan said however that he did not know if such a move would make a big difference and said it was of importance to roll out the Covid-19 booster as quickly as possible.
In an interview with RTÉ News last night, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that it is not the Government’s intention to close schools early ahead of the Christmas break “at this stage”.
“The collective objective of all of us is to keep schools open,” the Taoiseach said.
The Taoiseach’s comments came ahead of a meeting between the three coalition leaders and members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) last night to discuss the current Covid-19 situation.
Yesterday the Government also confirmed plans to step-up the Covid-19 vaccination programme with more members of the Defence Forces to be drafted in to help ramp up the number of booster jabs offered a day.
The Taoiseach said hours will be increased across vaccination centres and there are also plans to ask more GPs and pharmacists to come on board with the vaccination rollout.
A new vaccination centre is to open in Cork city in early January.
It has also been announced that a pop-up booster vaccination clinic will take place over the weekend at Mallow Primary Healthcare Centre.