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Minister for Education Norma Foley pictured last week. eah Farrell/

Education Minister: 'All available evidence shows schools are not amplification settings for Covid-19'

Norma Foley reiterated the government’s ‘absolute determination’ to keep schools open.

THE DEPARTMENT OF Education has reiterated the “absolute determination” that schools would remain open in Levels 4 and 5, stating that the latest public health advice “as of today” backs up this plan. 

In Northern Ireland, schools will close from Monday for two weeks until 2 November, with one of these weeks covering the half-term Halloween break.

Addressing this today, Minister for Education Norma Foley said that schools are “safe places to be” and that they would continue to operate in the Republic. 

Foley said her department received updated public health advice from the HSE only today and it showed that “all the available evidence” shows that schools “are not amplification settings” for the transmission of Covid-19. 

At a media briefing this afternoon a department official said that, despite Covid-19 rates increasing across the country, the proportion of the cases in 4-18 year-olds has “remained stable both before and schools reopened”. 

The department says this rate it at about 14%. 

The minister stated that if the opening of schools had amplified transmission “this proportion would increase as children and staff infected one another in the school setting.”

The department also said that schools cannot be seen to be an amplification setting for Covid-19 because the positivity rate when testing is undertaken in a school is at the relatively low rate of 2%. 

“Where there is a confirmed case of somebody in the school, a pupil or a staff member, they carry out mass testing in the school and they’ve tested up to 6,000 children and teachers to date. And out of that very, very few additional positive cases have been detected,” the official stated.

Less than 2% of those tests result in additional cases being detected. And again, this is much lower than the comparable rate of positive detection in community which is at around 6% at the moment.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it was his belief that schools would continue to operate under Level 5. 

In the government’s guidelines for Level 5, it says that this would be “based on situation and evidence at time” and teaching unions have sought greater clarity. 

Asked about her understanding of the situation, the Education Minister said that “in every Level there is a recommendation that schools would remain open” and that “this would be our intention going forward”. 

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