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'Schools are not high-risk environments'- CMO Dr Tony Holohan says there's no reason schools shouldn't re-open next week

New data has revealed that secondary schools have lower contacts testing positive for Covid-19 than primary schools.

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Department of Education officials and experts from the public health advisory body, Nphet, are to meet stakeholders to answer questions and offer reassurances about safety. (Stock photo: PA)

Department of Education officials and experts from the public health advisory body, Nphet, are to meet stakeholders to answer questions and offer reassurances about safety. (Stock photo: PA)

Department of Education officials and experts from the public health advisory body, Nphet, are to meet stakeholders to answer questions and offer reassurances about safety. (Stock photo: PA)

As schools have sent home books to parents in case they do not reopen after the mid-term break, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has said that at this moment he sees no reason as to why they would stay shut next week.

Speaking at a Department of Health briefing today, the CMO said he cannot “guarantee” anything but that the data concerning schools is positive.

He said: “We would never use words like guarantee but in terms of the data we’re looking at we don’t anticipate a situation where we will be going back to advise the minister that on public health grounds we wouldn't see, at this point in time, a reason why the schools shouldn’t reopen next week.”

Deputy CMO Dr Heather Burns stressed that from data she received today it is outlining that schools are safe environments.

The new data revealed that at primary level 2.7pc of contacts have tested positive for Covid-19 and the corresponding figure for post-primary is 2.1pc.

This is much lower than the positivity rate among close contacts out in the general community setting which is 10pc.

Secondary schools are at lower risk, despite suggestions that children are less likely than teenagers to pass on Covid-19. However, Dr Burns stressed that this could be due to it being harder to monitor younger children’s social distancing behaviours.

“With younger primary school children it could be more difficult to adhere to pod systems,” she said.

“The most important overall message is how much lower it is than the positivity rate among close contacts out in the general community setting. Schools are not high-risk environments for Covid-19.”

At the briefing today, the overriding message from Dr Tony Holohan was that Covid-19 patients must be self-isolating properly.

He also stressed that in order for the country to be in a different position in six weeks time that we all must play our part and adhere to guidelines.

"We need to have people understanding. We have a way to go with that because some people don’t understand and others do understand but don’t comply, and that's an issue," he said.

"It's not just compliance to the letter we’re asking for it’s the spirit of it. We are urging everyone to pull together in the same direction."

There were a further 720 cases of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland with five more deaths, the Department of Health confirmed today.

This brings the total number of cases in the country to 58,767.

The total number of Covid-19 fatalities in the state has now reached 1,890.


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