Nphet to discuss mask wearing for children in primary schools

Nphet to discuss mask wearing for children in primary schools

Cases of Covid-19 among children have increased by more than 50% over the past two weeks.

Professor Mary Horgan, president of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, said it may be time to consider the use of masks in primary school.

The proposal is expected to be considered by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) when it meets later this morning.

Prof Horgan, a member of Nphet, told Morning Ireland the incidence of infection in primary school has been high over the last few months and this is probably because the group is unvaccinated and do not use masks.

"It is likely the EMA may recommend vaccination in that five to 11-year-old age group," she said.

"That certainly will reduce the infections and masking on top of that.

"Although it is difficult for younger children to wear masks we do need to follow the science."

Cases among children have increased by more than 50% over the past two weeks, with nearly one in every hundred children testing positive for Covid-19 last week.

There were nearly 16,500 cases in the past fortnight, almost 6,000 more than the previous two weeks.

However, just 24 outbreaks have been liked to schools, accounting for 139 cases.

Professor Mary Horgan, president of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland,  said it may be time to consider the use of masks in primary school.
Professor Mary Horgan, president of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland,  said it may be time to consider the use of masks in primary school.

Prof Horgan said she hopes another lockdown can be avoided and there are "loads of tools" that need to be effectively used in order to achieve this.

"Avoid lockdown at all costs would be the right way to go at this point in time, but it's always a bit uncertain and unpredictable," she said.

"A lockdown is just a blunt instrument and it is really the last resort. We have developed loads of tools that we need to effectively use to avoid a lockdown. The current situation in hospitals is steady.

"It (the virus) has always been uncertain and unpredictable so we do need to watch things very closely."

Government 'determined' to keep schools open

Consultant in infectious diseases, Dr Eoghan de Barra, says infection in children is generally mild 

"The direct health impact on children has been modest in their physical health, so thankfully the number of children that end up severely unwell is small," he said.

"There are children who get sick with this, there are admissions to the hospital, but thankfully that's a relatively rare event."

Junior Education Minister Josepha Madigan says the Government is "determined" to keep schools open but it is up to public health officials to decide whether contact tracing should restart in classrooms.

"If there is any further decisions in relation to testing and tracing of any close contacts in schools, it's a matter for Nphet to consider," Ms Madigan said.

"The department engages regularly with Nphet and Minister Donnelly and we work very closely with the HSE public health who actually support schools dealing with Covid-19.

"Each school has a Covid-19 response plan that is constantly updated and looked at and they're part of the Government's work safety protocol as well."

She added: "The Government has put in €600m since the beginning of this pandemic to ensure that schools stay open.

"I know when you're talking about special education, which is under my remit, there's extensive PPE, there's sanitation, there's, you know, everything that you can think of to make sure that we keep schools open."

Cases among children have increased by more than 50% over the past two weeks, with nearly one in every hundred children testing positive for Covid-19 last week.
Cases among children have increased by more than 50% over the past two weeks, with nearly one in every hundred children testing positive for Covid-19 last week.

The use of masks among people attending large or crowded events will also be looked at by Nphet this morning, however, it will be next week before health officials consider if further restrictions are needed.

Dr de Barra says the virus is hitting the unvaccinated hardest and it could be avoided.

"It said often that people in the health service are fatigued and tired," Dr de Barra said.

"I mean, it's always a busy job, but it's also very depressing each morning coming into four, five or six new Covid patients in their 20s, 30s, 40s, whatever, but they're unvaccinated and they're sick.

"This is largely about unvaccinated when it comes to the hospitalisation and they're very unwell and it's, it's disheartening that's still what's going on."

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