Taoiseach raises doubts over schools reopening on February 1st

ireland
Micheál Martin (Julien Behal Photography/PA), © PA Media
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Digital Desk Staff

Cabinet will meet next week to extend Level 5 restrictions until late February while Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned that the plan for schools to reopen on February 1st is now in doubt.

The Taoiseach also said Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions will continue into February.

Mr Martin told his parliamentary party last night the case numbers remain too high.

Meanwhile, deputy Fine Gael leader Simon Coveney told the party's parliamentary meeting on Wednesday that the Government’s current health restrictions will remain in place “for future weeks”.

The Foreign Affairs Minister also said the issue would be discussed at Cabinet next week and that the vast majority of restrictions would be maintained well into next month.

The Irish Times report that the prospect of schools reopening on February 1st is now in doubt after the delay in reopening schools for children with special needs.

Reopening

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The Department of Education is still exploring the possibilities for reopening schools next month, however, sources said the department will follow whatever advice is offered by the State's public health team.

Sources said one option being explored is considering whether a significant number of school staff and boards of management want to temporarily reopen on a voluntary basis for students with special needs.

There are concerns that such a plan would lead to partial reopening though.

A source told the Irish Examiner that “the numbers are going to have to fall” in order for schools to reopen. "It's also important to reiterate that public health advice continues to be that schools are safe,” the source added.

Talks between teacher unions and the Department of Education on the return of special education will resume later.

It comes after the department abandoned today's planned reopening, following objections from the the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) and Fórsa on safety grounds.

Vaccination

According to The Irish Times, Mr Martin told the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting that the Government had a plan for ramping up vaccinations when more become available.

“We have a much more comprehensive and detailed plan for ramping up the volume of vaccinations in the next phase, particularly after the authorisation by the European Medicines Agency of the AstraZeneca vaccine which, all going well, should be on January 29th, with delivery expected in mid-February,” he said.

“This will be followed by the Janssen vaccine, which we expect to be authorised a month later. We will also be getting more supplies from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. There will, therefore, be a very significant ramping-up.”

 

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