The UK Covid-19 variant is more infectious among children than previous strains, a leading professor has said.
Trinity College professor Tomás Ryan said comparing the positivity rate in schools to that in the community was “a nonsense comparison”.
Mr Ryan is a member of the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group and said children “contribute to community spread” of the virus.
“It is not a like with like comparison. Schools are not safe, schools are safe when the community around them is safe. Children do get infected and do contribute to the infection rate within the community,” he told Today with Claire Byrne.
“The B117 variant that is now dominant in Ireland is more infectious to children. It is not true that the only risk to schools reopening are the parents moving around it. That is not true, this virus does infect children and they do contribute to community spread.
“Some very relevant modelling done recently in the UK suggested that if you opened all of the primary schools, you certainly will increase the R number in the country significantly. The same is likely true of Ireland,” he added.
Mr Ryan believes the reopening of schools should be done on a county-by-county basis, decided by case numbers.
“Numbers are coming down in Cork and Kerry very well but we’re not seeing the same in Dublin. I don’t think we can have a blanket policy on this. We should be seeing what we can do to mitigate transmission in schools, we haven’t seen enough on this.
“We need more face mask wearing, we need much more advice on ventilation...there are many things the Department of Education could be doing to make schools safer than they are and I think that should be a priority on that aspect of the plan,” he said.
The professor, who is an advocate for the zero-Covid strategy, said that while the possibility of lockdown until the end of April is “depressing” on many fronts, he said there was one positive to be taken from it.
“This gives us the opportunity to properly stamp out Covid-19 in Ireland and at the same time, put in place mandatory quarantine to stop it from coming into the country”.
He said that “variants were on tour” and the only way mandatory quarantine would work to keep the variants out of Ireland was if it applied to “all countries of origin”.