We need new measures to reduce COVID transmission in schools with one-in-five new cases now under the age of 12.
UCD Professor Jack Lambert made the call after it emerged health officials are considering relaxing self-isolation rules for schoolchildren.
Around 14,000 children are currently out of school because they have been deemed close-contacts and the figure is expected to rise in the coming weeks.
Under current rules, they have to restrict their movements and stay at home for ten days; however, officials are considering relaxing the rules for those that have no symptoms.
Currently, close contacts who have been vaccinated do not need to restrict movements unless they have symptoms; however, vaccination is not available to under-12s.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Professor Lambert noted that one-in-five new cases in the last two weeks were under the age of 12.
“If you look over the last couple of weeks in terms of the numbers of cases reported by the Government, they keep saying that kids are not a source of transmission and kids aren’t catching it in school but actually, 50% of all cases in the last two weeks were 25 and under and 20% were 12 and under,” he said. “So, kids are spreading the virus.”
“Kids are spreading it and the issue is do we let them spread it, because they are taking it home and it is having consequences for the whole family including people who are at risk in the home.
“I think we need a living with COVID strategy for schools that doesn’t keep kids out of school but makes it safe for everybody both in the school and in the household to live safely.”
He said we need a greater focus on COVID-protection measures in schools.
“We keep on saying that 90% vaccination means we don’t need to worry about COVID anymore – that is absolutely wrong,” he said.
“We are still getting patients admitted and staff infected with COVID who have been double-vaccinated, so the vaccines help but they are not the only solution,” he said.
“There are a lot of COVID-mitigation strategies we need to continue to support as part of the solution.”
He said proper ventilation ins schools is crucial – while masks and antigen testing also have a role to play.
“We have to think about solutions like that moving forward because we are going to continue to have outbreaks all through the winter in all school populations because they are the people who are getting the infections,” he said. “Look at the numbers.”
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