The Government has always been guided by public health advice in relation to what is safe in schools. The CMO has made it very clear in his advices to Government which are published on gov.ie, that schools are safe environments, with very little evidence of transmission within schools, and that the majority of infections of children and adolescents occurs outside the school setting. The decision to delay the reopening of schools was in recognition of the need to reduce societal activity and movement to curb the spread of the virus at a time where there was unprecedented levels of disease transmission in the community. This was not based on a changed assessment of the risks in relation to transmission levels in schools.
Schools have put significant infection prevention control measures in place to reduce the risk of coronavirus being transmitted to/within the school and funding of almost €650 million has been put in place by my Department to fund Covid-19 related measures, including funding for PPE, sanitation and additional cleaning etc.
The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has issued specific advice about children attending school in the context of covid-19. This advice covers both children with underlying medical conditions and children living with family members with underlying conditions. For all children, care should continue to be taken to reduce transmission through the infection control measures promoted by HPSC.
The HPSC advice advises that children with immediate family members, including parents, in both the ‘high risk’ and ‘very high risk’ categories can return to school and it is important for the child’s overall well-being. This is consistent with public health advice internationally in relation to at-risk family members. The priority is that the household continues to follow all current advice on how to minimise the risk of coronavirus, through regular hand washing, etc.