Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn has moved to reassure parents over the safety of children going back to school.
He has written an open letter to parents and school staff, acknowledging their concerns as children return to classrooms across Ireland this week.
He said that while there are no “zero risk options” for reopening schools or any other environment, “international evidence shows us that child-to-child and child-to-adult transmission of Covid-19 in schools is uncommon”.
As thousands of children across Donegal and the rest of the country return to school, Dr Glynn said there will be coronavirus cases among children over the coming days and weeks, as there have been throughout this pandemic.
However, he added “But when this happens, our public health teams will respond and liaise closely with the school involved and ensure that all necessary measures are taken to protect other students and school staff.”
He said he was “very aware” that parents were worried about the reopening of schools and the associated risk to their children.
“This concern is natural and is to be fully expected after a period of six months during which we have all had to adapt to the challenges posed by Covid-19.”
He said the decision to reopen schools was based on guidance produced by international bodies including the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and scientific evidence regarding the risk of Covid-19 in school children and staff.
“In addition, our own experience to date in Ireland, and indeed that reported internationally, demonstrates that for the overwhelming majority of children who are diagnosed with Covid-19, their symptoms will be mild.”
The importance of schools for the overall health and well-being of children cannot be overstated, he said.
“Schools play a fundamental role in the social life of children; they are where children are educated, make friends, share interests, learn social skills like self-confidence and empathy, and participate in sport and cultural activities.
“The risk of Covid-19 has been carefully weighed against the very real harm that can be caused by sustained school closures.”
Dr Glynn reminded parents that “it is okay to send your child to school or childcare if they only have a runny nose or a sneeze.
“If you have any concerns that your child has symptoms of Covid-19 – fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell – then please keep them at home until you have spoken with your GP by phone.”
He said parents and guardians had a key role to play in keeping the level of Covid-19 in the community low and “starve this virus of opportunities to transmit”.
Dr Glynn said he wanted to use his letter to thank parents for “all you have done to keep your family and our communities safe over the past seven months”.
He also thanked teachers, principals and school staff for their hard work to ensure schools are ready to reopen.
“It is just one more example of the incredible solidarity that has defined the way in which people all across the country have come together to play their part in getting us through this pandemic,” he said.Tags: