We had been warned. On the highest medical authority.
But it still came as a shock for it to happen so fast. Parents showed great forbearance in getting kids back to class in a pandemic. For this pest guest to gatecrash their little worlds - just a day later - was stomach-churning and demoralising.
The news that a child in a Dublin school had tested positive for the virus was a harsh jolt of reality after the buoyancy of spirit we’d felt for getting them over the line. There were colourful balloons outside our school yesterday; an uplifting visual message, saying: “Welcome back”. Now you couldn’t blame us for feeling deflated.
It would be easy to think: maybe we were foolish to believe we could relax for five minutes. Maybe the Covid-wishers are right: the sky is falling in.
But let’s not lose our grip on perspective. We knew this would happen: it is a grim aspect of that horrible world we live in now called: The New Normal. It is our duty to show our children how to navigate it. A defeatist attitude is not the way.
For context: this case is one unfortunate child out of more than 550,000 primary school children. There are 500 students in the school in question.
Before schools reopened, we had been notified that 100 children had tested positive for Covid in the previous fortnight. We saw cases in the childcare sector on their reopening. Schools are not transmission sites – but they are not immune either, no more than any other environment.
The pupil did not contract the virus in the school – which is in line with the experience in other European countries that opened before us. Indeed, there is some reassurance to be had in the knowledge that the school and public health teams reacted so fast in identifying it and acting accordingly. The class of 30 were sent home as a precaution, but the school did not shut down.
The case in the Republic today – and the one north of the border in Armagh - was inevitable. It should not provoke a defeatist attitude; instead it calls for a steady nerve. We must accept this is now part of school life.
The best we can do is keep our composure, while remaining vigilant. Follow the guidelines: keep children at home if they have a fever or cough and keep up hygiene habits.
Teachers, schools and the Department of Education have moved mountains to ensure our children go back to class. This is because the social, educational, physical and developmental toll of extended closures on child welfare is too high. It is, as Dr Mary Favier of the Irish College of General Practitioners said, one of the most important things to be achieved in public health.
The risk/ benefit ratio is heavily weighted on the side of school. The numbers of primary-aged children diagnosed with the virus are in the hundreds, out of 28,000 cases. Mercifully, no child has died. Put simply, the harm caused by school absence is greater than the risk of Covid to children.
Now is not the time to panic. Keep calm, carry on.