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Education Minister says there's no reason to close schools early ahead of Christmas or open them later after New Year

Norma Foley says there’s no public health advice suggesting this should happen.

Education Minister Norma Foley.
Education Minister Norma Foley.

EDUCATION MINISTER NORMA Foley has said there is no public health advice to suggest that schools should close tomorrow for Christmas and not next week as planned. 

Foley was speaking on RTÉ’s News at One and said she”appreciates the concern” people have around Covid-19 but that the level of virus transmission in schools remains low. 

The minister’s comments come after all students at a primary school in Co Kerry were told to restrict their movements until 30 December after 17 people tested positive for Covid-19.

Parents of students at Scoil Mhuire in Killorglin have been sent a letter from the HSE to say that a public-health team is investigating the Covid-19 outbreak there. 

Speaking today, Foley said that public health experts are best placed to make decisions about whether actions need to be taken in individual schools and that cases are low in schools across the country.

“From the very beginning the education sector and me as Minister for Education have been very clear that we would follow the public health advice as the public health advice has been laid down. And we have followed it completely and entirely,” she said. 

Last week alone there were 62 cases in our schools and that’s from a pool of one million students and 100,000 staff, so I think that’s a huge recognition of the fact that schools by their nature are safe places.

Last night, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan said public health officials were worried about a rise in cases ahead of Christmas. Foley said that she shares the concerns of everyone about the virus but that there is also a need for children to be in school. 

“I do absolutely appreciate the concern that everyone in society has in relation to Covid-19 but equally so I have engaged with parents, I have engaged with the representative unions and they have all been very very clear in their desires that the schools would be open and they recognise the importance of them being open,” the minister said. 

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People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith was among those to share a petition online that called for schools to delay the planned reopening in the new year.  

Asked about the suggestion, Foley said this is also not being recommended. 

“Again it’s the same reasoning, we have followed the public health advice and there is no public health advice recommending anything of that nature,” she said. 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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