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Just 122 children and teachers have tested positive as outbreaks low

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HSE clinical director Dr Colm Henry said rate is flattening out in schools

HSE clinical director Dr Colm Henry said rate is flattening out in schools

Colin Keegan

HSE clinical director Dr Colm Henry said rate is flattening out in schools

Some 287 schools have been at the centre of Covid-19 testing since the start of the new term, with 6,741 students and teachers swabbed.

The most recent figures provided by the HSE show that of these, 122 children and teachers have tested positive.

That is out of more than one million students and approximately 100,000 staff in 4,000 schools across the country.

Dr Colm Henry, HSE clinical director, said the rate of the virus in schools does not seem to be escalating up but flattening out.

There have been very few instances where the virus was passed on in the school.

It has mostly been the case that a child or teacher picked it up at home or in the community.

One of the instances where the virus was caught in a school involved two children who swapped desks during one lesson to allow one of them to have a better view of a white board.

The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) has said outbreaks in schools have not been a prominent feature of the pandemic.

This is mostly due to the fact that the majority of children do not develop symptoms when infected with the virus, or they develop a very mild form of the disease.

Drivers

No evidence has been found to suggest children are the primary drivers of virus transmission.

Closing schools for an extra week in mid-term may be something we need to get used to.

If there are no children or teachers in the classroom and fewer parents ferrying them to and from school, there will be a drop in people mixing and therefore less of a chance Covid-19 could spread among them.

An extended mid-term might be the price to pay for a lower level of lockdown across the country, allowing businesses to continue trading.

That's probably the rationale behind the suggestion for a two week mid-term break this winter, which has yet to get the go ahead.

The unexpected proposal is that children would be off school from Monday, October 26 until Friday, November 6.

The return to classrooms has been a rare Government success and there is no evidence it is significantly contributing to the current surge in cases.

The forecast from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is that by early November - unless the rate of the rise in cases slows down - new cases of the virus will have jumped to 1,100-1,500 daily.

Nphet also warned 450 people could be in hospital by then.

The mid-term break clashes with a crucial and potentially treacherous time if the pace at which the virus is bolting is not brought under control.

The aim of closing schools down would be to help slow the rising spread of Covid-19.

Fears

However, if this break does go ahead, it could contradict the message that schools are not contributing to the latest surge in cases.

There are also fears that if groups of teenagers spend two off-duty weeks mingling with friends, that could drive the spread of the virus.