Delaying phase four increases chance of schools reopening in September, Simon Harris says

Delaying phase four increases chance of schools reopening in September, Simon Harris says

Simon Harris said it would have been 'grossly irresponsible' to ignore public health advice and move forward with phase four as planned.

The decision not to proceed with phase four of reopening the country increases the possibility of all children returning to school in September, the Higher Education Minister has said.

Health experts say the R value, which is the number of people that a single infected person will go on to infect, is now between 1.2 and 1.8.

Simon Harris said: “We know that we have a huge body of work to do as a country to get our kids back to school and to get our learners and third level students back as well.”

Mr Harris said it would have been “grossly irresponsible” to ignore public health advice and move forward with phase four as planned.

It is down to every single one of us now as citizens to give our children the very best chance now by keeping the virus as low as possible

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said on Wednesday that his main priority is to reopen schools in September.

“The Taoiseach has said time and again that getting children back to school is a major priority. I have seen the negative impact on children and their wellbeing from being out of school,” said Mr Harris.

On Wednesday, the Government made a decision to delay the reopening of Ireland’s pubs and nightclubs until August 10.

Speaking in Dublin on Thursday, Mr Harris said: “It is down to every single one of us now as citizens to give our children the very best chance now by keeping the virus as low as possible.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly warned reopening pubs now could “materially add to the possibility of a second wave” of Covid-19.

He said that while Ireland has been doing well in the fight against coronavirus, there is increasing concern over the rise in the R number.

Plans to allow larger crowds to gather indoors and outdoors from Monday have also been scrapped amid concerns over the spread of the virus.

“All pubs are being treated the same, that’s the public health advice,” Mr Donnelly said.

It hasn't been done lightly, but the public health advice is, were we to open them now it could materially add to the possibility of a second wave and it's just not a risk we are willing to take

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly

“This is not easy. This is not an easy decision to make. We are following the public health guidelines.

“Essentially we are prioritising the opening of schools, the opening of healthcare facilities, the opening of the economy over the accelerated reopening of the pubs.

“This is not done lightly. We really do understand that there are publicans all across the country who are waiting and hoping they will be able to reopen on Monday.

“It hasn’t been done lightly, but the public health advice is, were we to open them now it could materially add to the possibility of a second wave and it’s just not a risk we are willing to take.”

It was also confirmed that social visits to people’s homes will remain limited to a maximum of 10 visitors from no more than four other households.

Restrictions on indoor gatherings to 50 and outdoors to 200 will remain until August 10.

Mr Donnelly said that wearing face coverings in shops and other indoor spaces is advised.

He added: “On the first day on the buses, nine in every 10 passengers arrived with a face mask.

“You can be sure that many of the one in 10 who didn’t, some can’t wear them, some forgot them.

“So if we continue as we have been, my hope is there will be no need for enforcement whatsoever.”

“If we did not intervene and take these measures, it would take an inevitable course, which is in nobody’s interest,” he added.

Testing is the foundation stone of everything we are doing with this disease, if we don't know how many people have it and don't know where the disease is then we can't stop it spreading

Liz Canavan, Department of the Taoiseach

Senior Government civil servant Liz Canavan, of the Department of the Taoiseach, said there is a rise in the number of people identified as close contacts of a confirmed case who are being offered tests but not coming forward.

Ms Canavan said: “Testing is the foundation stone of everything we are doing with this disease, if we don’t know how many people have it and don’t know where the disease is then we can’t stop it spreading. So, if you are asked to get a test – please do so.”

Ireland’s Covid-19 death toll rose to 1,748 after the deaths of two more people were confirmed by the National Public Health Emergency Team.

As of midnight on Tuesday, the health system had been notified of 14 more confirmed cases.


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