"Needs of the child are paramount" says Taoiseach as schools return
Taoiseach Micheál Martin believes there are still a number of weeks left in the current wave of the Omicron variant.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has underlined the importance of children receiving in-person education as schools get set to open their doors once again on Thursday.
Cabinet is due to meet on Wednesday afternoon, with Covid top of the agenda.
The National Public Health and Emergency Team (NPHET), meanwhile, is scheduled to meet on Thursday.
"It's steady as she goes now in relation to dealing with this," said the Taoiseach while speaking to RTÉ News on Wednesday morning.
"I think we all have to keep up our efforts in terms of reducing socialisation, but at the same time making sure that we can protect essential services within health, within education – because the needs of the child are paramount here.
"We all know that it's been a societal goal, that children do their best when at school, and that is the motivation behind the decision to proceed with the school openings."
Painting an overall picture of the current situation, the Taoiseach noted that Government will meet today to discuss the latest effects of the Omicron wave.
"I think there's a number of weeks in this yet," he said.
"But, I would say this; as a country I think we have responded well. I think the people have responded well. And we need to stick with it."
Taoiseach Martin said that his Government is "fully aware" of the challenges facing people who are required to self-isolate due to being a close contact to those infected with Covid-19.
On Tuesday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar signalled his intention to change isolation rules for boosted asymptomatic close contacts.
The Tánaiste noted the distinction between those who have been boosted and those who have not, though he added that Government will continue to follow the latest public health advice.
However, it is understood that Government will ask Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan to consider easing the rules around the restriction of movement for fully vaccinated close contacts.
On the subject of schools, Holohan warned that it is "inevitable" that children will contract Covid in the weeks ahead, though he pointed to household contacts as a likely source of transmission.
The CMO outlined his position shortly after 21,302 new cases of the virus were confirmed by the Department of Health on Tuesday evening, 4 January.
"As one of our key essential services – the education sector – prepares to restart in-person education this week, it is important that we continue to minimise, as much as we can, discretionary mixing indoors with people from other households," said Holohan.
"We saw a significant reduction in incidence of Covid-19 in primary school-going children through December.
"However, given the very high and rising incidence of Covid-19 across all age groups in the community, it is inevitable that children will pick up this infection from household contacts in the days and weeks ahead," Holohan continued.
"We also know, as a result, that there will be cases and outbreaks in schools and childcare settings.
"The Irish and international experience of the pandemic continues to give us reason to believe that schools are a lower risk environment for the transmission of Covid-19 and that the majority of children who are infected experience a mild form of this disease," he added.
Holohan also underlined that children aged between five and 12 are eligible for vaccination.
Featured Image via Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie