Leaving Cert, fifth year, infant classes may return on March 1st - Taoiseach

ireland
Taoiseach Micheal Martin, © PA Wire/PA Images
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Digital Desk Staff

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting that Leaving Certificate students, junior and senior infants and fifth year students may be able to return to school on March 1st.

However, he stressed that the easing of Level 5 restrictions will be complicated by the fact that 90 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the State are the UK B117 variant.

The Taoiseach said that the reopening of schools and construction was a priority.

UK variant

Mr Martin said the Cabinet subcommittee on Covid-19 will meet on Tuesday, adding that there is a huge concern over the UK variant.

Sources at the meeting told The Irish Times that Mr Martin said the return of the rest of students is likely to be staggered over the month of March, which would allow the HSE and the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to monitor the impact of reopening schools.

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He said the aim was to give Leaving Cert students “options and choice” and that “maximum options” should be given to third level students.

Mr Martin said most over-70s will be vaccinated by the middle of May.

He also told the meeting that there will be a significant period of ongoing restrictions in April and May to keep virus spread as low as possible.

Sources said that several members of the parliamentary party pushed for priority access to the Covid-19 vaccine to be given to family carers, patients on dialysis and those with cancer.

Cormac Devlin and Dara Calleary were two of the members who pushed for this.

Other members criticised communications from the HSE and the Department of Health, calling on Minister for Heath Stephen Donnelly to make improvements.

Underlying conditions

Mr Donnelly told the meeting he expected 80,000 vaccinations to be administered this week, adding that  he had asked the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) to consider priority for certain groups, including high risk kidney-dialysis patients, people under 65 and those with underlying conditions.

Mr Martin said that hundreds of people are still in hospital and many are in ICU.

The Taoiseach said there would be pressure on Government to reopen society but that the focus would be on suppressing the variant and pushing down numbers further.

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