Taoiseach has confirmed schools will reopen at the end of August

Government realised it was not a ‘no risk scenario but we know it’s a low risk scenario’, said Leo Varadkar

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that it is the Government's intention to open all schools at the beginning of the school year in August. However, the Taoiseach warned that every student may not "return every day for the full day." Video: RTÉ

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed schools will reopen at the end of August.

In a briefing to the media following Friday’s Cabinet meeting, Mr Varadkar said secondary schools and primary schools will reopen fully at the start of the school year.

He said the Government realised it was not a “no risk scenario but we know it’s a low risk scenario.”

Mr Varadkar said it may not be possible for every pupil to attend every school for the whole day every day at the start of school term but the intention was to revert to that as quickly as possible.

“In terms of accelerating the reopening of the country, the vast majority of people would like to see us accelerate the plan,” he said.

Sounding a note of caution, he added: “We have to do that based on data”.

Furthermore he said: “Making any decision today to reopen the country would be premature and would be risky.”

‘Playpods’

Katherine Zappone, the Minister for Children, also confirmed that childcare facilities will reopen with “playpods” for young children, with up to six infants aged under one being allowed in a single playpod.

She said that advice had come from the National Public Health Emergency Team.

She said it was not possible to say how many creches would reopen in July but said she was publishing the public health advice today to allow them four weeks to study it.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe meanwhile said that the temporary wage subsidy scheme will now apply to people returning to work from maternity leave, and from paternity leave.

He said the Cabinet had agreed an important change to ensure those workers were not denied it.

He said legislation will be introduced later this year but that the measure will be backdated to March 26th.

He also said the scheme has had a significant impact to date with over 50,000 employers and well over 400,000 employees benefiting from it.

Progressing very well

Mr Varadkar has also said a new Brexit Bill will be required and the Government has begun drafting it. It cannot be enacted until a new government is in place.

He said that a build-up of legislation that needs to be passed urgently has set a “hard deadline” for negotiations on a new government to conclude.

Legislation for European Investment Bank emergency pandemic funding, on renewing the writ of the Special Criminal Court and new Brexit legislation would all need to be enacted by the end of June, he added, and the new Seanad would have to be in operation.

He said if there was no agreement on forming a government by then, it would lead to very difficult circumstances.

Mr Varadkar said he had met Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan on Friday morning and that government-formation talks were progressing very well.

He said the intention was to reach agreement by the end of next week and then put it to the membership of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens within two weeks.

“There is many a slip between cup and lip but I can guarantee we are working very hard on this,” he said.

In relation to the contract with private hospitals for Covid-19 care concluding at the end of June, the Taoiseach said there was an impression that there would have been a load of operations and procedures in private hospitals if this contract with the hospitals had not been proceeded with. He said that was not correct.