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Most children with Covid will experience only mild symptoms, says Holohan



The State’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has moved to reassure parents ahead of the return of schools after the mid-term break on Monday amid a high incidence of Covid among children.

Dr Holohan said the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) would continue to monitor the level of the disease and review data, the international research and guidance and “to update our advice accordingly”.

“I am conscious that parents and guardians will be concerned about the high level of incidence of Covid-19 among the five to 12 age group, particularly as children head back to school on Monday after the mid-term,” he said.

But he stressed international evidence showed that in the vast majority of cases, children who became infected with Covid-19 experienced mild symptoms or were asymptomatic.

“The public health advice is based on scientific evidence and the direct experience of the pandemic in Ireland. It shows that child-to-child transmission is uncommon in school settings where there are preventive measures in place like those throughout our schools,” he added.

Infectious diseases expert Dr Sam McConkey said he wasn’t “wildly concerned” about children returning to primary school at a time of rising Covid cases as the virus generally doesn’t “make them [kids] very sick.”





Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU


500


93

Contact tracing

And despite calls from the Irish Primary Principals Network and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) for contact tracing to be reintroduced in primary schools, he said that instead of going down the route of “wasting resources” in returning to contact tracing in primary schools, we instead need to focus on improving it in the wider community.

Prof McConkey said with inclement weather and the transition from late autumn to early winter, the public are starting to move indoors for parties and celebrations.

“We need really good contact tracing [in the community] in the next few weeks. There are big parties going on for Halloween and so on and people are going to weddings. People are having big indoor parties now that the weather has turned.”

Dr Holohan said “schools are vital to the health and wellbeing of our children and it is important that we continue to balance the priorities of safeguarding public health in the community with the social and psychological development needs of our youngest generation”.

He urged parents and guardians to continue to observe the public health advice at home and at school drop-off and pick-up and remember to keep a safe 2m distance from other parents or guardians at these busy times.

A further 1,963 new Covid infections were reported on Sunday, in addition to 2,966 new cases on Saturday. There are 500 people in hospital with the virus, of whom 93 are in intensive care.

Supply ‘crisis’

Meanwhile, primary schools will be given access to more substitute teachers and trainees from college in a bid to ease a supply “crisis” which principals say could lead to pupils being sent home.

Minister for Education Norma Foley is understood to have signed off on a circular to be sent to all primary schools on Monday which will announce that 100 extra teachers are to be recruited on a full-time basis to provide substitute cover in areas where shortages are most acute.

In addition, teacher training colleges have also been requested to be flexible to facilitate student teachers being available for substitution work.



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