No plans to close schools early before Christmas, says department

Primary and secondary schools are due to close for the Christmas break on December 22nd
No plans to close schools early before Christmas, says department

There are no plans to close schools early ahead of the Christmas break, according to the Department of Education.

Some health experts and school principals have suggested that early closure could limit the spread of Covid-19.

However, a spokesman for the department told The Irish Times that the scheduling of school holiday periods are not due to change.

“There are no plans to alter the school break at Christmas. There is no evidence to suggest that extending school holidays has a public health rationale,” the spokesman said.

Primary and secondary schools are due to close for the Christmas break on Wednesday, December 22nd, and reopen on Thursday, January 6th.

Dublin City University professor of immunology Christine Loscher said on Tuesday that closing schools this Friday would minimise children’s exposure to the virus, especially in light of the highly transmissible Omicron variant

“This will give a decent circuit breaker and ensure we can open schools in January,” she said.

Denmark announced last week that it was closing schools early due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant, while the UK government said it will only close schools early in the event of an “absolute public health emergency”

The latest figures in the Republic show the incidence of Covid-19 among primary school aged children has climbed significantly in recent weeks.

There were 1,321 cases per 100,000 among the 5-12 age group last week, up from 767 per 100,000 four weeks ago.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has called for the “swift reinstatement” of public health support for primary schools when they reopen in January.

It also wants the booster vaccine programme to be fast-tracked for staff workers in crowded settings, alongside the inoculation of children aged 5-11.

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