Coronavirus: Speculation that schools could shut over outbreak dismissed

Widespread speculation that schools will shut early for Easter and that children could be sent home for up to three weeks have been dismissed as inaccurate by education officials and politicians.

Coronavirus: Speculation that schools could shut over outbreak dismissed

Widespread speculation that schools will shut early for Easter and that children could be sent home for up to three weeks have been dismissed as inaccurate by education officials and politicians.

With concern about the spread of the coronavirus among schools, there had been reports on social media, in WhatsApp groups and among staff in schools today that facilities would close on Friday.

This would be ahead of next week's St Patrick's Day holidays for schools as well as the following weeks for the Easter holidays.

But the Department of Education has rubbished the suggestions with officials privately criticising the origin of the speculation which has emerged online on social media forums today.

In a detailed statement, a department spokesman told the Irish Examiner: "The Department of Education and Skills is liaising closely with the Department of Health on a continuing basis.

"Any decision to close schools will be made on public health advice. There is no such advice at this point.

"It is essential that any decisions regarding responses to Covid-19 are proportionate, necessary and based on specific public health advice. No other response is appropriate.

"Public health professionals will contact schools if there is any action to be taken. Schools should not take unilateral action.

"Schools, pre-schools and higher education settings have been provided with advice and guidance in respect of Covid-19.

"The Department is deeply conscious of the significance of decisions concerning school closures, and the potential impact any such decisions would have on parents, families and the wider community."

Nonetheless, officials also privately insist the situation with COVID-19 is evolving and that clinical advice can change on a daily basis.

While some university facilities and workplaces today and this week have begun sending people home or asking them to study or work off site, the Department of Education is not to introduce emergency measures as of this afternoon, officials explained.

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne also criticised the rumours, tweeting:

"I've just met very senior department of education officials who informed me that there is currently no plan for large scale school closures. They say they'll be guided by public health advice which at the moment is not to have large scale closures."

Meanwhile, Trinity College Dublin announced earlier today that it is to

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- with reporting by Press Association

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