Dr Colm Henry: Covid transmission levels 'too high' for schools to reopen

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the HSE has expressed concern that Ireland is now seeing "something extremely different" in the transmission of Covid-19.
Dr Colm Henry: Covid transmission levels 'too high' for schools to reopen

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Dr Henry said he hoped there would be “some approach” which would give priority status to "certain elements of the education sector." Picture: Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland

The HSE’s chief clinical officer, Dr Colm Henry has said that Covid-19 transmission levels at the moment are too high for schools to reopen.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Dr Henry said he hoped there would be “some approach” which would give priority status to "certain elements of the education sector."

It was “tragic” to be talking about schools remaining closed, he said.

“We learned from the first surge about how much harm was done to children, especially early school children, particularly in special needs environments when there was a pause in education.” 

Nobody wanted to see the schools' closure to be protracted because of what had happened “the first time.” 

"Transmission levels at the moment are frankly too high," he said.

They need to be reduced “to much lower levels” before any additional risk of “mixing crowds or a mixing of people in school settings.” 

It was his hope that “certain elements” of education, especially special needs, could return because of the impact such closures had previously.

Paul Reid: We are seeing 'something extremely different' with Covid transmission

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the HSE has expressed concern that Ireland is now seeing "something extremely different" in the transmission of Covid-19.

"I'm not a virologist, I can't put that down to the new variant, but there is something extremely different, where we're seeing whole families sick within a household, sometimes families admitted to hospitals," Paul Reid said.

Health Service Executive chief executive Paul Reid. Picture: Photocall Ireland/PA

Health Service Executive chief executive Paul Reid. Picture: Photocall Ireland/PA

"So we always need to recalibrate what's right at a different point in time. For now we're seeing something extremely different with this transmission."

When asked on Newstalk Breakfast whether he felt mandatory quarantine for those travelling into Ireland is necessary he said it is not his role to decide on such protocols.

Mr Reid says the country currently has a low level of vaccines, but is hopeful that this will ramp up.

"First thing is that they get the approval [of the Astra Zeneca vaccine] that we need from the EMA (European Medicines Agency), the next thing is that they live up to their delivery commitments, and that's always risky and volatile as we've already seen what the Pzifer vaccine turned off," he added.

"Realistically when we look at the volumes that are committed to by those suppliers, we should see huge advances." 

With AstraZeneca and other suppliers coming on stream, you're looking at over one million deliveries per month from April, May onwards. 

"So, again, all of that is predicated on huge, huge assumptions that we hope to plan to come through," Mr Reid said.

When asked about reports of TDs lobbying on behalf of different workforces for vaccines, Mr Reid says the protocol is set by the National Immunisation Advisory committee.

"I think one really strong, solid piece about this which is going to protect the HSE and protect all of us, the sequencing has been approved by the National immunisation Advisory Committee, not the HSE, not the department. It has recommended them to government and the government have approved it," he said.

"So that's the sequencing that we work off and that's exactly the way we're doing it.

"There is, I understand, huge pressure from various different workforces to be vaccinated. I totally understand that there is a level at which we will look as we move through this process, and ask 'do those details need to change?' But the reality of it is, we are absolutely limited by the reasonably smaller level of supply that we have right at this point in time.

"So, frankly, you know, anybody can make an understandable justifiable case on it. We're being guided by the sequencing approved by the government."

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