Video: Schools to reopen, elective care suspensions and Ireland's cleanest town

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Schools to reopen

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has confirmed in-person education will resume as planned on Thursday following the Christmas holidays, despite reservations from teachers unions.

As the Department of Education meets with teachers unions to discuss the return of schools on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said "in the unlikely event that there's any change to that plan" the Minister for Education will make an announcement.

"As things stand, schools and college go back as normal in January," he added.

The Children’s Ombudsman has called on the Government to keep schools open, saying closures cannot be the “default response” to surging Covid-19 cases.

The ASTI, which represents around 18,500 secondary teachers, has called for a “delayed and staggered” reopening of schools, warning that reopening them without additional safety measures would be an “unacceptable risk”.

Elective care suspensions

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Hospitals are suspending elective care amid growing pressure on the health system from Covid-19, the HSE chief executive has said.

On Tuesday, Paul Reid said it remains unclear when Ireland would reach the peak of the current wave of the virus.

Amid staff shortages across critical services, Mr Varadkar also said that rules for close contacts of confirmed cases will be re-examined by public health officials due to the impact they are having.

The number of Omicron cases is “substantially higher” than the levels officially recorded through PCR tests, the HSE’s lead on the vaccination and contact tracing programmes has said.

Antigen test shortages will meanwhile hit Ireland this week, the secretary general of the Irish Pharmacy Union has warned, as further stocks are awaited.

Ireland's cleanest town

Naas has been crowned Ireland’s cleanest town for 2021 by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL).

The study found Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) litter to be at its highest level since the pandemic began, with close to 33 per cent of towns and villages have PPE litter such as masks.

The latest survey examined more than 100 Irish towns and cities across the country.

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