Coronavirus clusters in schools are “virtually inevitable”, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn has said.
Dr Glynn ruled out a blanket approach to closures if a case is diagnosed.
There has been one further death and 40 additional positive results for Covid-19, the Department of Health confirmed today.
Dr Glynn said: “It is virtually inevitable there will be clusters when schools reopen, there is no zero-risk so it is likely, unfortunately.
“But we have to balance the risk of infection versus their needs as children to educational attainment.”
Reopening schools before the end of this month is a priority for the Government.
Dr Glynn said the health authorities would contact trace if a case was diagnosed in the classroom.
He added: “There will not be a blanket approach.
“It may need to happen that a school closes, but the hope would be that in the main, it would only be children in close contacts with a case who might have to restrict their movements.”
Professor Philip Nolan, chairman of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), expressed concern at the recent increase in cases.
He said his best estimate of the current reproduction number was 1.6 but if larger outbreaks like those in three locked down Midlands counties were stripped out that would bring the figure closer to one.
One or less is required to prevent an exponential spread of the virus.
Prof. Nolan said the number of new infections was running at two to three times higher than the average in late June or early July.
He said 70% of those over the last 14 days related to clusters of infection but the majority were traceable.
“Community transmission has gone up as part of the overall rise in cases,” he said.
Of the cases notified today, 12 were in Dublin, 11 in Kildare, seven in Offaly, and the rest were in Clare, Donegal, Limerick, Meath, Roscommon, Tipperary and Wicklow.
Dr Glynn added: “Although today’s number is positive relative to what we saw last weekend, we remain concerned about both the number of cases that are being reported and their distribution across the country.”
The five-day average for reported cases nationally is now running at 75 per day.
The acting chief medical officer added: “Even when we exclude Kildare, Laois and Offaly from this, it remains significantly elevated for the rest of the country at 31 per day – it is worth recalling that in late June, the five-day average for cases reported was less than 10.
“In light of this, I ask people to continue to hold firm and continue to closely follow public health advice.”