School uniforms low risk for Covid-19 spread, says virologist

School uniforms present a low risk for spreading Covid-19 with little evidence showing a risk of transmission on fabric to date, a virologist has said.

Professor Kim Roberts told RTÉ radio’s Today with Sarah McInerney that though the virus can survive on some fabrics, it is for only a short amount of time.

If the virus dries out then it is “inactivated” and the nature of most fabrics means that they would dry it out quickly, she explained.

I don’t think fabric is at high risk of transmission. School uniforms would be very low risk.

“I don’t think fabric is at high risk of transmission. School uniforms would be very low risk,” she said based on data to date.

Prof Roberts acknowledged that she could see the logic of schools requesting that uniforms be washed every day, but she felt it was important to reassure parents who did not have the facilities to wash and dry uniforms daily that there was no evidence that clothing was a transmission risk.

If parents could not wash uniforms every day they were not putting their own children or other people’s children at risk, she said.

Sharing

However, lunch boxes and pencil cases were a different matter and provided a greater risk, which was why it was important that there be no sharing of equipment within classrooms.

Items should be washed in a detergent which would deactivate the virus, she said.

Prof Roberts said that she believed the amount of the virus in schools “should be pretty low.”

This comes as the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is to consider issuing specific guidance for parents in relation to testing children for covid-19 next week.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn says significant work is being carried out on the protocols for testing ahead of children returning to schools.