WHO rep says Ireland right to debate balance of return to school

Guidance on social distancing for schools will be subject to review according Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn.

World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Dr David Nabarro has said that teachers unions and the government are right to debate the balance of risk of a return to school in September.

This was “a tricky question” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Sarah McInerney show. 

Dr Nabarro said he favoured a ‘gentle’ return which meant a return “bit by bit”.

“There is a real challenge here, what degree of risk is appropriate or acceptable in that setting?” 

Dr Nabarro said he had been told that children are capable of understanding the need to practice social distancing if it is explained to them by parents and teachers. 

But schools needed to be prepared for schools to close if there was a spike in cases.

When asked to explain what he meant by a ‘gentle’ opening, he said he meant being ready to change tack “if things don’t turn out as hoped."

“You may find that if you do it bit by bit it works well. I imagine you will do it very well, you will do it together.” Dr Nabarro said he agreed with Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan (to whom he extended his personal best wishes), about overseas travel.

He advised people to do their research and ensure that where they are going is not worse than where they are coming from.

“If in doubt, don’t go.” On the issue of face masks, Dr Nabarro said that airline staff, pub/restaurant staff, security, cleaners should all be wearing masks. 

He was glad that masks are to be mandatory on public transport in Ireland, and added that they should also be mandatory in shops and cafés.

Dr Nabarro said he understood decisions being made for economic reasons, but that they should only be made on a health basis. 

“In the end having a system that keeps us all safe is most important.”

Yesterday the Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said that the guidance on schools is subject to review depending on the evidence.

Dr. Ronan Glynn says while 1 metre at least is preferable for younger children, that should not stop them from going back to school.

Dr Glynn also said that social distancing guidelines for schools could be further relaxed over time.