Chief medical officer says schools ‘not a major source of transmission’ as children return

The chief medical officer has sought to reassure parents ahead of the return of pupils to classrooms this week.

r Tony Holohan said that while the country is experiencing “a very high incidence” of Covid-19, the school environment is “not a major source of transmission”.

He urged people to stick to public health measures such as hand washing and social distancing, and not to send their children to school if they show any symptoms of Covid-19.

He said: “Education is at the heart of our society and plays a fundamental role in the development and wellbeing of our children and young people.

“This is particularly true for children and young people who have special educational needs, are disadvantaged or who may have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

“This year, these preparations are being made at a time when our country is experiencing a very high incidence of Covid-19.

“It is important to remember that our experience to date is that the school environment was not a major source of disease transmission and that school reopening did not have a significant effect on the incidence of Covid-19 in children.

“In fact, any increase in incidence among children is often linked to the events that occur around school as much as the events that occur within school.”

Speaking on Sunday, Dr Holohan said families, parents and school staff had made “considerable efforts” to ensure schools can reopen.

He added: “It is important that we continue to socialise safely and continue to adhere to the public health measures we are all so familiar with, and that our schools have successfully implemented… wash hands or use hand sanitiser, wear a mask if this is what is recommended in your school environment, keep your distance and avoid crowds.”

Dr Holohan added: “It is important to be aware of the symptoms of Covid-19 to be aware of and do not send your child to school if they display any.

“These are cough, fever, headache, sore throat and blocked or runny nose.

“If your child displays any of these symptoms, support them to isolate and contact your GP for advice and to arrange a test if appropriate.

“These measures will prevent transmission of the virus to others.”

Sunday saw 1,706 confirmed cases of Covid-19 reported by the Department of Health.

There were 347 Covid-19 patients in hospital, up 23 on the previous day, while there were 60 in intensive care, down one.

Dr Holohan’s statement also comes after concerns have been raised by pregnant teachers who have not yet been fully vaccinated and who wish to teach remotely, although Education Minister Norma Foley has insisted it is safe for them to be in the classroom. Pregnant women are not advised to have their first jab until they are 14 weeks pregnant.

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