The Acting Chief Medical Officer says that clusters in creches and elsewhere are likely once the new school term begins at the end of August, with the hope that lessons learned over recent months and new measures around school re-openings will limit any spread.
Dr Ronan Glynn also said that Ireland is moving as part of a European bloc to ensure an adequate supply of any successful vaccine should any emerge from a number of clinical trials. He also told the latest NPHET briefing that while the R-number has fallen it is still above 1, and so the virus is still not suppressed in Ireland despite a fall in daily confirmed case numbers in recent weeks.
No new deaths were reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre on Monday and as of midnight last Sunday, 11 new cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed, bringing the overall number to 25,892 here.
The focus at Monday night's briefing was mainly on the full re-opening of schools at the end of August, with Dr Glynn and his colleagues speaking just moments after the Taoiseach and Ministers outlined the full extent of the roadmap around getting children back into fulltime education.
The Acting CMO said advice is due from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in the next fortnight regarding Covid-19 and its effect on children. He said this will inform NPHET decisions with regard to children and schools in the coming weeks.
"They [children] play less of a role in transmission this virus than they do for other respiratory viruses such as the seasonal flu," Dr Glynn said, adding that the vast majority of children who have contracted the coronavirus have an uncomplicated course and have recovered.
"That is not to say that is zero risk," he warned.
"We have had no clusters or outbreaks with creches since they reopened but it won't be surprising if we do. It's just a part of living with a highly transmissible, highly infectious disease.
Hopefully, the knowledge that parents and families have gained about how to protect themselves and their children will stand to them over the coming weeks.
The Government roadmap outlines how schools should reconfigure classrooms and do everything possible to ensure that classes do not mix and that 'pods' of children work together within classes.
It also outlines protocols on how schools should manage instances where children become ill at school, such as possible testing.
The NPHET briefing heard that a decision has yet to be made about which children will have to be tested if they get sick. But Rachel Kenna, Chief Nursing Officer, Department of Health, and Dr Siobhán Ní Bhríain, Consultant Psychiatrist and Integrated Care Lead, HSE, both urged parents to ensure that children catch up with all vaccinations. Dr Ní Bhríain said advice will follow as to how GPs are expected to deal with what could be a deluge of calls from parents now asked to contact them if their child has any type of illness, and that it is important that children follow a healthy lifestyle to better protect them against ill health generally.
With the global picture fluctuating from country to country — including rising concerns over travel-related cases — Dr Glynn said of Ireland: "We stabilised [the case rate] — what we want to see now is the trajectory coming back down and we want to see that over the next week or two."