Professor Philip Nolan, Chairman of the Nphet Irish Epidemiological Modeling Advisory Group. Photo: Stephen Collins / Collins Photos
Special needs students attending elementary and secondary schools will return to class today as the gradual reopening of schools continues.
In the meantime, the special schools, which have been half full since February 11, will reopen from next Monday, with all students attending a full five-day week.
The gradual reopening of the schools will be next Monday for Leaving Cert- Students as well as toddlers, seniors, first and second grades continued in elementary school.
The remaining elementary school students are expected to return in the following weeks. It is unclear when the rest of the second grade students will return, however, but many may wait until after the Easter break.
It is understood that the school reopening guidelines for the next week do not have an increased focus on that Ventilation – despite international recommendations that highly transmissible variants of Covid-19 mean windows should be open.
The Department of Education disputed a senior government source last night that said it would put an emphasis on ventilation « itself if that means that the children and the teacher have to wear their coats to class « .
However, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Norma Foley said: » The guidelines have not yet been finalized and are still being discussed with stakeholders. They are issued after the cabinet. “
There was already a dispute between the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) and the department over the alleged need for more ventilation. A group of experts has now been appointed to deliberate on this matter. The ventilation recommendation for schools remains “unchanged” from last November – before the advent of the more transferable British variant and the advent of the Brazilian and South African variants. However, the minister’s spokesman said last night: « We will always seek the best advice on public health. »
« Buildings should have clean, natural ventilation (ie opening windows) without it whenever possible the air is being circulated, ”it said.
Nphet discussed updated ventilation guidelines that were developed by the Health Protection Surveillance Center just last month. However, they have since been referred to an expert group for review.
A senior Irish scientist said last night: “Schools have recognized the importance of ventilation – but they can always do better.
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The government hopes the limited school reopening goes well so that other classes can return. Returns will be closely monitored, with school inspections being carried out.
The Covid Cabinet Subcommittee meets today to hear final advice from the Nphet before a revised plan for living with Covid goes to Cabinet tomorrow. </ The Taoiseach will then reach out to the nation emphasizing the need to remain strong as the vaccine continues.
The mandatory « red list » of hotel quarantine in 20 countries will be discussed before laws are introduced in the Dáil this week.
Meanwhile, cabinet sources said the revised Covid plan would not provide target dates for easing controls or reopening certain areas of the economy.
« The current restrictions will apply until Easter (April 4th) and a review will be Then take place. «
According to Prof. Philip Nolan of Nphet, it could be April before new cases drop below 100 a day.
He said progress in suppressing the virus has slowed, largely due to the dominance of the more communicable UK variant.
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