Children are probably safer in the schools than they are in the community, according to a member of NPHET.
Children around the country will begin returning to school in the coming days, despite the high levels of coronavirus among younger people.
While many children aged between 12 and 15 are in the process of being vaccinated, younger children will not be vaccinated on their return to school.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, the Chair of NPHET’s Expert Advisory Group Dr Cillian De Gascun said he was not worried about schools reopening.
“No is the short answer,” he said.
“What we know to date about SARS‑CoV‑2 - and I want to clarify that obviously we haven’t seen Delta in our schools yet because Delta pretty much arrived at the start of June here at a significant level so a lot of the schools were closed - it seems at this point in time, regardless of the variant, children are less likely to succumb to infection and less likely to succumb to severe disease.”
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He warned that there will be an increase in cases among children as schools open; however, he said he did not expect them to increase “disproportionately compared to what we would have seen” if they remained shut.
“The key element is, as we are vaccinating, if we have very high levels of disease, we are forcing that into our children,” he said.
“But it does seem at the moment that school is probably a safer place for them to be than in the community because, if you look at the school opening date for the last term and the closing date before the summer, it had very little impact on the incidence of the virus in five to 18-year-olds.
“The actual incidence increased in that age group after the schools closed and everyone was out in the community and disease levels obviously increased.”
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Education Minister Norma Foley said parents should be "very, very reassured" that everything has been done to ensure schools are safe for students.
She said officials have been in regular contact with public health throughout the summer and All the infection prevention and control measures that are required in our schools are in place.
“Yards have been subdivided; there are separate entrances and exits where possible; there are staggered breaks and one-way systems within schools; there are enhanced cleaning operations; our staff are masked and at second-level our students are masked,” she said.
“I’m very optimistic and very confident.”
She also noted that CO2 monitors are now being delivered to schools around the country and will be installed in the coming days and weeks.
You can listen back to Dr De Gascun here: