Digital Desk Staff
The Seanad has heard calls to shut primary schools early on Friday ahead of Christmas in the interest of public health.
As the Irish Examiner reports, speaking in the Seanad on Wednesday morning, Fine Gael senator Jerry Buttimer called on Education Minister Norma Foley to close schools this weekend.
On Tuesday, the Department of Education said it had no plans to alter the Christmas school break or to close early.
"There is no evidence to suggest that extending school holidays has a public health rationale," a spokesman for the department said.
“Covid is running riot in our primary schools,” Mr Buttimer told the Seanad on Wednesday.
“Whether it's through close contacts or actual physical cases, absenteeism in primary schools is at an all-time high,” he said.
He said he knew of one school, where in a population of less than 700, there are 100 people absent from the school.
Mr Buttimer said he was asking the minister to close the schools early “in the interest of public health”.
“We all know there will be intergenerational mixing over Christmas and to stop and to limit the spread of Covid, I'm asking the minister to close up primary schools on Friday to allow for a planned reopening in January, [and] to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”
He added: “Our primary schools are probably the one place where we have the most unvaccinated people, young people in particular, gathering at any one time.”
“They are wearing masks, but I would ask, and I really am appealing to the Minister of Education to close up primary schools on Friday as a public health measure to support the good work being done by Government and the HSE.”
On Wednesday morning, Dr Mary Favier, Covid lead for the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), said there was no one answer on how to tackle Covid, when asked if schools should close early this weekend.
The pandemic required a multi-layered approach, she added. Masks, handwashing, distancing, ventilation all played a role and schools were also a factor.
It was always going to be a balance, if children were out of school how would parents go to work and staffing levels in the health service were always an issue, she told RTÉ.