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Nphet member says masks should be considered for primary school children

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Professor Mary Horgan, RCPI president. Picture by Gareth Chaney Collins

Professor Mary Horgan, RCPI president. Picture by Gareth Chaney Collins

Professor Mary Horgan, RCPI president. Picture by Gareth Chaney Collins

A Nphet member has said mask wearing should be introduced in primary schools to protect children and help suppress the current Covid-19 wave.

President of the Royal College of Physicians Professor Mary Horgan has confirmed that the incidence of the virus is higher among primary school children than other sections of the population.

This is because they are unvaccinated, and they do not wear masks, she explained.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme she admitted that is it “difficult” for young children to wear mask but argued the science must be followed.

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“It may be time consider that (mask wearing) because we do want to reduce the infection as much as we possibly can. It’s likely that the EMA (European Medicines Agency) will recommend vaccination in that five to 11-year-old age group.”

“That certainly will reduce the infections and masking on top of that, although it difficult for younger children to wear mask, but we do need to follow the science,” she added.

Nphet will today again discuss recommending face coverings for primary children, which it has previously rejected. Only secondary students currently wear masks.

It comes as primary children now account for the highest number of Covid cases of any age group, with 10,000 in the last fortnight.

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Last night, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Fine Gael parliamentary party he believed younger children would be offered the vaccine in future. Earlier this week, the Taoiseach said he favoured the move but would await the recommendation of the EMA and Ireland’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee.

In relation to the ongoing debate over the use of antigen testing to tackle the virus, Prof Horgan said the public should be “trusted” to use the rapid tests appropriately.

She described herself as “a big advocate” for antigen testing and said “anecdotes” which are circulating about the weaknesses of antigen tests are not helpful.

“We’ve a very educated population. We need to trust the population. We need to follow the science and move away from the anecdotes we continue to hear on the antigen test is positive, it’s negative.

“Let’s follow the science and let’s use the antigen tests in a very measured appropriate way in the population,” she said.

Professor Horgan also described lockdowns as a “blunt instrument” and said she hopes another one can avoided.

She argued there are a number of public health interventions which can be used before a lockdown is considered.

“A lockdown is just a blunt instrument and it’s really a last resort. We have developed loads of tools that we need to effectively use to avoid a lockdown.

“The current situation in hospitals is steady. It’s not increasing certainly in Cork University Hospital. What we would really like to see is that declining. So, going from a steady state to a declining over the next week or so. Avoiding lockdown at all costs would be the right way to go,” she added.


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