Ireland moving towards ‘phased reopening’ of education, scientist says

Ireland is progressing towards a place where the phased reopening of education can be considered, a medical chief has said.

Professor Philip Nolan said he hopes that by March 5, the end date for the current phase of restrictions, that the nation will be in “a much better place”.

The head of Nphet’s epidemiological modelling advisory group said Ireland could see a drop to 200-400 new cases of Covid-19 a day by the end of February.

Coronavirus – Fri Jan 29, 2021
Coronavirus – Fri Jan 29, 2021

“If we are cautious I think there are certain high priority, lower risk things that we can do in March, April, May that will allow some opening up without a significant increase in the transmission of the virus,” he told RTE radio’s The Week programme.

“I think we can say given the huge progress that we have made as a community in suppressing the virus, we’re now approaching a level of disease in the community where it would be safe to think about an appropriately phased, cautious reopening of education.”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin also expressed a cautious approach, indicating that he does not see a “major reopening of the economy” on March 5.

He said a prolonged suppression of the virus would see primary schools reopened on a phased basis and construction reopening once cases dropped below 1,000 a day.

However he said that the hospitality sector could not reopen before an increased rollout of the vaccine project.

In terms of the vaccination programme, Mr Martin said Ireland is down 300,000 doses it was expecting from AstraZeneca, but he said it will pick up in May, June and July as increased supplies come in from Pfizer and Moderna and hopefully Johnson & Johnson.

Earlier the Taoiseach called for calm in the race to vaccinate populations.

Mr Martin was speaking in the wake of a move by the European Union (EU) to use a post-Brexit mechanism to interfere with supply lines of the jab.

The bloc later backtracked following outrage in London, Belfast and Dublin.

The Taoiseach said more people getting vaccinated across Europe is a good thing.

Coronavirus – Mon Jan 4, 2021
Coronavirus – Mon Jan 4, 2021

He told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “We were watching what’s happening in the UK and saying, ‘well done, you are vaccinating quickly and that’s important’.

“Overall, across Europe we all need to roll out the vaccination programme as effectively and efficiently as we can, so I would like if we can dial down the tone and work collegially is the best way to deal with this.”

Asked whether he would like to see any UK surplus of the vaccination distributed to Ireland, Mr Martin said there is a long way to go yet.

“The UK has a long way to go, we have a long way to go, Europe has a long way to go,” he said.

“I think all of us have a collective responsibility to ensure that the developing world, and particularly frontline workers in the developing world, are vaccinated as well because this is a global situation.

“There’s very little point in the virus raging across developing countries while we vaccinate 100% here because that would mean more mutations.

“We have a journey to go but I think we will get there if we can just calm down.

“There’s an understandable race against time in relation to getting the vaccines out but, if you think about it, what has happened in the last 10 months has been truly remarkable that we’ve managed to facilitate the development of vaccines in such a short space of time.

“I understand that anxiety, but we will get there.”