Leading immunologist Professor Luke O’Neill says reopening schools may not be “quite as risky” as scientists originally thought.
The Government this week announced its €325m plan for the full reopening of all schools at the end of August.
The plan includes guidelines on social distancing and hygiene; however, face coverings will not be mandatory.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Trinity College Professor Luke O’Neill said they should be mandatory for older students – at least for part of the day.
“Why shouldn’t teenagers wear masks as they do if they are on the DART or in a supermarket?” he asked.
“The question becomes how often during the day should they wear them? Is learning going to be affected by mask wearing? But certainly, it is another measure to use to keep everybody safe.”
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He said Germany has found an effective “halfway house” solution to the problem.
“The Germans have taken a very sensible approach,” he said. “They say you should wear masks for secondary school only – but only when you are outside the classroom. When you are in crowded areas and you might be at a higher risk of picking it up.
“It is very difficult of course for teenagers to wear masks for the whole day in a classroom but they should definitely wear them in the school when you are outside the classroom.
“I think that makes sense; I would advocate for that.”
He said 90% of the world’s children were out of school at the height of the pandemic and that number has since dropped to 60%.
It means a third of children have already returned to school and Professor O’Neill said there have been very few spikes as a result.
“We could be lucky,” he said. “If it is the case that children are less likely to be infected and maybe less likely to pass it on – the jury is still out on that by the way, as to whether kids are actually a source of spread.
“If we are lucky with kids - and it looks like we are - then opening schools isn’t quite as risky as we would have first worried about.”
He said Israel is an example of a country that was “too lax with some of the rules” and saw some spikes as a result.
You can listen back to the full interview here: