School reopenings likely to begin March 1st, Taoiseach confirms

ireland
School Reopenings Likely To Begin March 1St, Taoiseach Confirms School Reopenings Likely To Begin March 1St, Taoiseach Confirms
A definitive decision will be made today, with an official announcement to come next week. Photo: PA Images.
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Press Association

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the reopening of schools is going to be on a phased basis and will likely start from March 1st.

Mr Martin told the Live 95 Limerick radio show that the Government is hoping to have junior infants, senior infants, first and second class students back in school on a phased basis from next month.

A definitive decision will be made today, with an official announcement to come next week, he added.

“We will be having a meeting today with the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19,” Mr Martin said.

“Nphet (National Public Health Emergency Team) will be making a presentation to us.

“We will be reopening schools on a phased basis. The indications are it will likely be at the beginning of March.

“The public health authorities want to do this on a gradual basis because they want to monitor the impact of increased mobilisation of people on the spread of the disease.

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“Too many people coming back at the one time is just not possible because of the impact, given the nature of the variant that we now have, which is highly transmissible and more dangerous.”

Coming months

Mr Martin added: “In terms of the next number of months, we’re looking at a very slow and cautious reopening (of schools).

“We want to roll out the vaccines and get as many people vaccinated as possible, that will drive down the spread.

“We have already seen in the nursing home settings and hospital settings that the outbreaks are reducing, the number of people getting the disease is reducing as a result of the first vaccine being administered.

“That does give us hope and it does give us a sense that if we are very cautious, we can keep the trajectory of the virus down.”

Psychological impact

Mr Martin said people are finding the current lockdown “very difficult”.

“This third wave and the lockdown associated with it is having a very significant psychological impact on people,” he added.

“On the other hand, it was tremendous to see the joy articulated by the over-85s who were vaccinated in the last number of days.

“These are people who have been essentially cocooning for 12 months.

“In May and June I think we will be in a different space because of the fact that we will have a significant number of people vaccinated.

“By mid-May we should have all over-70s vaccinated and that’s the age cohort that is most at risk from the virus and of becoming ill.”

He added, however, that he is “loath” to predict beyond the end of April.

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It comes as last night, Mr 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.

Many of the big decisions about how the next few months will unfold will be informed by what happens at a Cabinet meeting this evening.

Nphet will feed advice to the Government — recommendations that will be very hard to go against for Ministers after the mistakes made in December.

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