It is likely that all primary school students will be back in classrooms by March 15th, according to the Minister for Children.
Roderic O’Gorman told RTÉ radio’s Today show that it was likely that primary schools would reopen in two phases.
The first would see junior and senior infants, first and second class return on March 1st, with the remaining classes reopening after a further two weeks on March 15th.
Minister O’Gorman said the focus for secondary schools was the return of Leaving Cert classes, with other classes expected to return after the Easter holidays.
There will be a “formal” announcement on Tuesday after the Cabinet meeting with full details of how long Covid-19 restrictions will remain in place, the Minister said.
Clarity and care
Minister O’Gorman said the Government will engage further with the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to come up with a “clear set of phasings” regarding a return to school.
The extension of lockdown will be part of Cabinet discussions on Tuesday as the advice to date has been that while progress has been made, numbers have plateaued at a level which is of concern particularly with the new variants, he said.
The Minister said it was important to be very careful in the context of school reopenings and it was essential to get children back to school.
It comes as the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has denied that “everything is off the table” when it comes to the further reopening of the economy in the coming weeks.
His comments came amid reports that Level 5 restrictions are set to remain in place until April, with tight restrictions continuing until at least early May.
Sources told The Irish Times that no further easing of restrictions is likely to be announced beyond the phased reopening of schools from early March, which Nphet said was “about the limit of what they can support”.
On Thursday evening, the State’s public health team warned of a plateau in the fight against Covid-19.
The number of contacts of confirmed new cases of Covid-19 is “drifting upwards” while test positivity rates and hospital admissions are “plateauing”, officials said.