Schools "will reopen" on phased basis from February 1 month ago

Schools "will reopen" on phased basis from February

"We will and want to open schools on a phased basis in February and March."

According to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar schools will gradually start to open next month. The plan, he said, is to get students back to school on a phase by phase basis.

Speaking on RTÉ's Claire Byrne Live last night, he said: "I cannot give a definite date to parents, but the one thing that we do intend is to open education on a phased basis across February and March, starting with those kids with additional needs."

Varadkar added that lockdown will probably stay in place until March too.

"I can say to parents that the decision is to leave the restrictions fully in place until March 5 so we can get cases down to a much lower level and give hospitals a chance to recover," he said.

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The government plans to start opening up the education system again with students with special needs. "It has to be done by agreement. We want to start with the special schools and then perhaps primary schools and exam classes," he said.

Varadkar added that they are watching the case numbers very closely in order to open the schools at the right time so that they won't cause a surge in numbers.

"Case numbers are halving every ten days so it is reasonable that in 20 days time it could be down to 400, but because of the new variant being more transmissible we want to open schools on a phased basis," he said.

Nothing is for certain yet but this is the plan. Varadkar said there's still some more reviews to be carried out before the dates can be made official.

"We have to consult with unions and parents groups and students, but we are reasonably confident that by mid-February we will be down to case numbers that were at the same level as when schools fully reopened last September."