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Not sending children to school poses greater risk than Covid-19, experts warn

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Pupils at St John The Baptist Primary School in West Belfast, as schools in Northern Ireland reopen to pupils following the coronavirus lockdown. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday August 24, 2020. See PA story ULSTER Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Pupils at St John The Baptist Primary School in West Belfast, as schools in Northern Ireland reopen to pupils following the coronavirus lockdown. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday August 24, 2020. See PA story ULSTER Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Pupils at St John The Baptist Primary School in West Belfast, as schools in Northern Ireland reopen to pupils following the coronavirus lockdown. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday August 24, 2020. See PA story ULSTER Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The risks of not going to school for children are higher than they face from Covid-19, HSE specialists warned today.

Research on the impact of the lockdown and shutdown of schools shows some children have suffered anxiety due to loss of socialisation and routines.

Speaking at a HSE briefing Dr Colm Henry of the HSE said primary school children were particularly affected and those with special needs or a disability were impacted.

The loss is not just in education terms but also in access to support such as meals, vaccinations and child protection. Some 25pc of referrals to Tusla come from schools.

“The risks of closure of schools outweigh the risks of Covid in children,” he said.

He said that the evidence to date is that transmission of the virus among children is low.

Reopening of schools is not associated with an increase in community transmission, he added.

Public health specialist Dr Abbie Collins, who is involved in investigating disease outbreaks, said parents should be reassured that children going back to school is the right thing to do.

Outlining what would happen in the event of suspected case in a school she said public health doctors would liaise directly with the school and carry out a risk assessment.

“It will be a bespoke process,” she said.

The team would look at a range of areas relative to the particular case and school including where children had been sitting, if they were in pods, what the flow pathway was , how they access toilets and where they would have gone during break times.

Close contacts would be informed and tested.

“We might temporarily restrict some activities or movements.

“The hope is there will not be large school closures and attendance is of paramount importance.”

The approach will be measured but if there is a chance of transmission they will act fast and hard, she added.

Speaking at the briefing HSE chief Paul Reid said there is a need to galvanise and avoid a lockdown.

The surge in cases has been mainly in the three counties where restrictions were imposed.

There has been a small rise in the numbers admitted to hospital but the numbers if intensive care are still low at four.

There are an average of 104 new cases a day in the last week – compared to 933 in April.


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