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05th Jan 2021

Schools could remain shut until the end of January

Jade Hayden

A decision is expected to be made before tomorrow.

Schools could remain shut until the end of January, according to reports.

The Cabinet is meeting today to discuss potentially delaying the reopening of primary and secondary schools across the country for a second time due to the rising number of Covid cases.

6,110 new cases of the virus were recorded by the Department of Health yesterday, an all-time high for the country, as the test positivity rate nears 25%.

According to The Irish Times, it is looking likely that schools will remain closed past their expected January 11 return date, potentially until the end of the month.

Official sources told the publication that most ministers believe that the reopening of schools will be delayed, but that allowances could be made for schools with special needs students.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that although the incidence in schoolchildren is lower than that of other age groups, it had increased “very, very fast.”

“We are concerned about our ability to assure the continuing provision of any of the key public services we have tried to protect, and education is one of them,” he said.

Dr Holohan added yesterday that the test positivity rate is now nearing 25%, as GPs become overwhelmed with calls as patients cite Covid symptoms.

“The positivity rate in the community is approaching 25%,” Holohan said. “If you have these symptoms, it is unlikely to be anything else other than Covid at this point in time.

“If you’re waiting for a test, if you’ve been referred by your GP or waiting for the result of a test, you must self-isolate.”

A decision regarding the reopening of schools is expected to be made before tomorrow, Wednesday.

Immunologist Professor Luke O’Neill said yesterday that he “couldn’t see” the schools reopening as expected on Monday if cases continue to rise this week.

“It will depend on the numbers this week. If we get to Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and the numbers are even higher, I can’t see the schools opening,” he said.

“It’s another risk. I believe yesterday many of the ministers who were asked are assuming the schools won’t re-open. So it is heading in that direction it looks like.”