| 13.2°C Dublin

Schools 'absolutely on track' to reopen in September as virus spread slows down

Close

Prof Philip Nolan

Prof Philip Nolan

Colin Keegan

Prof Philip Nolan

Schools are "absolutely on track" to resume in five weeks but the reopening of remaining pubs is still uncertain despite an improvement in the control of Covid-19, it emerged yesterday.

The country appears to have again slowed down the spread of the virus after a recent rise in cases - a welcome trend which acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said is probably due to more people listening, "reading signals" and following physical distancing rules.

Professor Philip Nolan, of Maynooth University, who leads the team tracking the virus, said a "level of stability" has emerged in its spread.

The number of travel-related cases is also down.

Although it is still too early to draw conclusions, Prof Nolan said it is a "positive note " that the number of new infections has been steady since around July 14.

"We have three priorities," Dr Glynn said.

"We want to get our healthcare services back and running to the greatest extent possible.

"We need to protect the most vulnerable in society and we need to get our children back to school.

Reduce

"All of our efforts need to be focused on those three aims.

"As things stand, we are absolutely on track for children to go back to school in September."

The aim is to keep the spread of the virus at the current rate or ideally to reduce it further. The R number is currently around 1.1, or maybe as high as 1.4.

This is a decrease, although when cases are low it is difficult to measure.

When the R number rises above one it means people infected with the virus are spreading it to others at a rate faster than one-to-one, which could lead to cases rising.

The aim is to bring the virus down to the levels of late June.

"It is early days but last week we were uncertain and pessimistic. This week we can be uncertain and optimistic," Dr Glynn added.

"People listened two weeks ago and have taken actions at an individual level, and if anyone is in any doubt of their individual actions hopefully the positive message this evening will show them that what we do as individuals makes a difference."

He was speaking as a further nine deaths from the virus were announced, although a number of these occurred some time ago. A further seven new cases were reported, which is down on last week's daily total.

infected

A significant number of new cases of the virus are being picked up in people who were in close contact with another infected person.

Prof Nolan said it is a "good signal" that the test and tracing system is detecting cases early.

There is still also a significant rate of community transmission - where people get the virus and do not know where it came from.

It is also being detected in private homes and extended families.

The level of travel-related transmission has reduced.

"The absolute number of travel-related infections bears that out. It is still significant but it has been less than in previous weeks," Prof Nolan added.

"There were 20 in the week up to last Sunday."