Dept of Education: No decision taken to extend mid-term break to stop Covid-19 spread

In an official statement issued through a spokesman this Friday morning, the department said no decision has been made to close the schools, and keeping them open remains a priority.
Dept of Education: No decision taken to extend mid-term break to stop Covid-19 spread

A department of Education spokesperson says Keeping schools safely open for children and staff is a key priority at all levels of the five-level Living with Covid-19 plan. File Picture

No decision has been taken to extend the mid-term break for schools to help stop the spread of Covid-19, according to the Department of Education.

According to reports this morning, the Government is considering extending the upcoming break by a week to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

However, in an official statement issued through a spokesman this Friday morning, the department said no decision has been made to close the schools, and keeping them open remains a priority.

“To date the evidence demonstrates that schools have reopened safely supported by significant investment to support all infection prevention and control measures recommended by the public health authorities.” 

Keeping schools safely open for children and staff is a key priority at all levels of the five-level Living with Covid-19 plan, the spokesperson added.

“At levels 1 to 4 inclusive, schools can remain open with protective measures, and at level 5, recommendations will be based on the situation and evidence at the time.” 

In recent days, the Department of Health has advised the Department of Education that this issue has been given careful consideration by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), the spokesperson said.

“In recommending that schools remain open at the present time, even in the current trajectory of the disease, Nphet has considered the national experience of school reopening to date, including the epidemiological data and information gathered through case and outbreak management.

“The Irish experience to date supports the current international position that schools are low risk environments for COVID-19 and are not key drivers of transmission in the community.” 

The Department said many cases of Covid-19 linked to schools here have been found to have exposure to the disease outside of the school environment, such as in a household or social setting.

“Similarly, where testing of close contacts, of confirmed cases linked to the school, identifies additional cases of Covid-19, many of these are found to have had exposure to the disease outside of the school.

“There have been relatively few instances where transmission of Covid-19 within a school is strongly suspected by HSE Public Health."

This morning, it was reported that the Government is likely to add an extra week to mid-term break.

According to the report, senior coalition sources said the proposal had been discussed briefly but no firm decision has been made yet.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) said it has regularly engaged with the Department of Education about reopening schools.

"It is imperative that when significant decisions are being made that the education stakeholders are consulted and given due notice of the outcomes so we can manage any potential disruption to our primary schools," said John Boyle, INTO general secretary.

"The INTO is calling for an urgent review of the public health advice on schools to determine the necessary level of protocols, protections and precautionary measures needed when the level of infection is very high in a community and for clarity on the status of schools at Level 5."

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