Decision on reopening schools to be made on Wednesday, says Stephen Donnelly 2 weeks ago

Decision on reopening schools to be made on Wednesday, says Stephen Donnelly

“These are big calls, they have a major impact on people’s lives.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said that the government will decide by Wednesday whether schools will return as scheduled next Monday (11 January).

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On Sunday, the Department of Education issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to reopening schools on that date, but the deteriorating Covid-19 situation in Ireland has led to concerns over whether it will be safe to do so.

Speaking on RTÉ News at One on Monday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly acknowledged the concerns of students, parents and teaching staff about schools reopening and said that is “reasonable to assume” that a decision would be made when Cabinet meets again on Wednesday (6 January).

“It’s important to stress right now that we have not received recommendation from medical experts in infectious diseases or in public health to close the schools,” Donnelly said.

“Now I understand, I’m a Dad myself, I’ve got three young children, I’m in the same position as a lot of people listening right now.

“And I understand people need clarity. Parents want clarity, students want clarity, the teachers and principals, obviously, they want clarity and they want as much notice as possible and that is right and proper that they would seek those things.

“These are big calls, they have a major impact on people’s lives and we know from the first lockdown, they have a big impact on the children, particularly children from lower income areas, so we have to allow the experts the time they need to examine the latest evidence.”

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Asked by Bryan Dobson if delaying a decision until Wednesday is good enough, given that it is a matter of urgency affecting thousands of people throughout the country, Donnelly responded: “We want to give as much notice as possible obviously and the decision to extend the holiday by three days has helped to give some of that breathing space. We need to make the decision based on the most up to date information we have.

“It’s a rapidly evolving situation so yes, we want to strike a balance between giving the school and the parents and the students as much time as possible and making sure we’re making the decision with the most up to date advice,” he added.

In the same interview, Donnelly said that 35,000 people in Ireland will receive Covid-19 vaccinations this week and that 6,000 positive Covid-19 results per day are expected over the coming days, a lower figure than the 7,000 cases per day predicted by HSE chief Paul Reid earlier on Monday.