‘We’ve never said schools are a safe environment, we’ve said they are lower risk’ – Deputy CMO Glynn

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer has said that schools, along with other settings, are “less safe” now than they were several months ago.

r Ronan Glynn has defended NPEHT’s position that schools are “lower risk” environments than other settings and said cases in schools are high because parents and children are not isolating properly.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show, Dr Glynn said the country’s public health officials have never claimed that schools are safe.

“What I would fully accept is that schools are not as safe now as they were when incidence was lower a number of months ago. No environment is as safe now as it was then. We’ve said all along that when incidence is really high in the community, as it is at the moment, then schools are not as safe as they would otherwise be.

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“We’ve never said that schools are a safe environment. We’ve said that they’re a lower risk environment,” he added.

Dr Glynn said public health doctors on the ground are finding evidence that cases in schools are being driven by the attendance of children who should be self-isolating.

“It’s not to say that there aren’t outbreaks in schools – they are and always have been. It’s not to say that cases don’t transmit in schools – they do and always have done.

“But the message coming across time and again from public health doctors on the ground is the two core issues they’re seeing that are leading to issues in schools are number one the use of antigen tests in children who are symptomatic and number two full stop just children who are symptomatic being picked up as cases in school,” he continued.

Meanwhile in relation to the current pressure on the country’s testing system Dr Glynn said he can understand people’s frustration at not being able to book a test but argued the health service cannot do much more to alleviate the situation.

He said according to the latest data, up to one fifth of the population has had flu, cold or Covid-19 like symptoms in the last week.

This is putting huge pressure on the testing system he said.

“From our data it appears that somewhere between 10pc and 20pc of adults and children in this country in the last week have had flu, or cold like or Covid like symptoms.

“That’s about 700,000 people in the past week who have had symptoms. There is no testing system in the world that’s going to be able to service that demand,” he explained.

While work is continuing to bring more capacity into the system, Dr Glynn admitted that at a certain point, cases would be prioritised based on “clinical criteria”.

He said tests are not the number one “public health intervention” and people can help take the pressure off the system by following the basic public health advice to suppress the virus.

“I know it’s frustrating but ultimately what we need people to do is to stay at home as soon as they get any symptoms suggestive of Covid and yes it may take a number of days to get a PCR test but the key point is that even if a PCR test is negative, the advice is not that once you get a negative PCR test that your children can go to school, that you can go back into the workplace, that you can socialise.

“The key advice is that anyone with symptoms needs to stay at home for 48-hours after their symptoms have settled,” he added.

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