Health officials insist schools still safe despite rise in Covid-19 cases

Health Officials Insist Schools Still Safe Despite Rise In Covid-19 Cases Health Officials Insist Schools Still Safe Despite Rise In Covid-19 Cases
Students wearing masks in class, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Dominic McGrath, PA

Health officials have insisted that schools remain relatively safe, despite concern about rising Covid-19 cases in Ireland.

At a briefing by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), the first since August, health officials said schools remain safe places for pupils and teachers.

On Tuesday, the Government said that it would ease some Covid-19 restrictions, but that a range of public health guidelines would remain in place for the winter months.

On Wednesday, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the measures taken in schools had ensured that “transmission is maintained at a relatively low risk”.

“Activity outside the school place has played a very important role in those kinds of transmissions,” he said.

“The demand, if I can call it that, for support from the school sector has reduced significantly.”

“It’s not to say that there is zero risk in that environment, but we think the risk in relative terms, compared to transmission in other settings, is more than sufficiently manageable for us to reassure pupils, parents and also teachers about the relatively safety of that.”

Earlier this week, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (Into) called for Covid support in primary schools to be increased and stressed the need for the return of testing and contact tracing in primary schools.

Automatic close-contact tracing ended in schools last month.


There have also been reports of some schools experiencing high numbers of Covid-19 cases in recent days.

Professor Philip Nolan, who chairs the Nphet Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said: “We know that children become infected with SSARS‑CoV‑2 (Covid-19). We know they’re capable of transmitting it.”

“At some point in that chain, they’re significantly less likely to do so than an unvaccinated adult.”

“We currently have the vast majority of people over 80 protected through vaccination and almost nobody under 12 protected through vaccination. But the incidence rates in those two different populations are similar.”


“The incidence rate in children would be much higher… because they’re unvaccinated, if there weren’t other things that were offering children relative protection against infection.”

“In regard to the cessation of the testing and isolation of asymptomatic contacts in the school setting, very few of those contacts were proven to be positive anyway.”

Prof Nolan said that it had proved to be an ineffective and “hugely disruptive” way of reducing transmission in schools.

Dr Holohan was also asked whether trick-or-treating can be carried out safely this Halloween.

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He said: “I think there are ways that can be done safely.”

However, he urged parents and children to act safely and be aware of any risks when celebrating Halloween.

There were an additional 2,148 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland on Wednesday, with 464 patients in hospital with the virus, and 86 of those in intensive care units.

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