All signs now point to schools not reopening, health and political figures say

ireland
All Signs Now Point To Schools Not Reopening, Health And Political Figures Say
Professor Luke O'Neill said he does not believe schools will reopen amid soaring infection rates. Photo: Getty Images.
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By Digital Desk Staff

The Education Minister will meet Opposition parties on Monday to brief them on the reopening of schools amid a third surge of coronavirus infections.

Norma Foley is being urged to clarify when schools will reopen their doors after the Christmas break, with the date currently set for January 11th.

However, public health experts and politicians have said it now looks unlikely that schools will welcome pupils back for in-person learning next week.

Professor Luke O'Neill, an immunologist at Trinity College Dublin, said he does not believe schools will reopen amid soaring infection rates.

“We’re looking at these numbers... if we get to Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and the numbers are even higher, I can’t see the schools opening because it’s another risk,” he said.

“I mean it may not be a huge risk if you reopen the schools but if these numbers are out of control, which we’re hearing is very serious...

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“I believe yesterday many of the ministers who were asked are assuming the schools won’t reopen, so it is heading in that direction it looks like.”

Clarity

Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh O'Laoghaire has echoed Prof O’Neill’s view that a reopening is unlikely as thousands of new Covid-19 cases are reported each day.

“It seems to me, much as I regret it, that schools are very unlikely to open on the 11th in the normal manner,” he said.

“So at this point, what the minister needs to do, is give people time to prepare, particularly schools, but also parents and families as well for that day.

“We need to know what’s going to be happening there, whether it’s remote learning, whether it’s phased learning, what provision is going to be there for special education.”

Mr O'Laoghaire called for Monday’s meeting with the Department of Education to provide long-term clarity and to heed the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

“I believe that Nphet should be there, we need to hear the public health advice, it needs to be adhered to, and we need to know what Nphet think of the picture, not only for the coming days and for the 11th, but for the weeks after that... so that we can make decisions for a couple of weeks.”

It comes as the Minister for Children Roderick O’Gorman has said it will be necessary to see if Level 5 restrictions are working before any decision is made to impose further restrictions.

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The advice from Nphet at present was that schools were safe to open but the situation remained under constant review, he said.

Level 5 restrictions had been introduced on December 24th and December 30th and it would take 10 to 14 days for their impact to be seen.

A long shutdown of schools would not be good for children, he said, but decisions would be made based on public health advice.

Meanwhile, teachers have also expressed concern ahead of the planned reopening on schools nationwide on January 11th.

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