The reopening of our schools gathers pace this morning when around 320,000 students and their teachers return to their classrooms. This longed-for advance builds on the progress made last month when special classes in mainstream schools resumed.
This is a step everyone, well nearly everyone, involved have looked forward to for one reason or another for some time now. It is nevertheless fraught with challenges. Students will want to try to catch up on their education, friends will be delighted to meet for the first time in many weeks while teachers and school administrators will worry that something might go wrong to jeopardise this small step back towards what was or normal just one year ago.
This step, there are more to come later this month, requires discipline and concentration if it is to be consolidated. It is, in many ways a test case for the wider reopening of society. If the schools cannot be reopened safely that will have a negative knock-on in so many other areas. There is no reason to imagine that school reopenings will not go ahead successfully even if there is an outbreak in one school or another. Indeed it would be surprising, though not intolerable, if there were several over the coming weeks.
However, it would be intolerable if any outbreak was traced to any of the 22,661 arrivals into Ireland over the two-week period between February 8 and 21. Of those, 12,856 were Irish residents and 9,805 non-residents. This loophole must be closed far more quickly than is promised.