Ireland one of three countries to fully reopen schools in April, says Hiqa report

Czechia and Portugal record highest Covid-19 related hospital and ICU numbers since January

Students attend Visconti High School in Rome on Monday, the first day of  reopening. Photograph: Massimo Percossi/EPA

Students attend Visconti High School in Rome on Monday, the first day of reopening. Photograph: Massimo Percossi/EPA


Ireland was one of just three countries to have fully reopened face-to-face teaching for all primary and secondary school students by mid-April, according to an international review of lockdown strategies.

The study, published by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), shows Ireland, Spain and the UK were the only jurisdictions to reopen all schools by April 16th, with other countries using a combination of face-to-face and distance learning.

The review by the State health watchdog offers an insight into the international response to the pandemic in 19 countries identified as being in a similar phase of the pandemic response as Ireland.

It shows many countries, including Ireland, witnessed a fall in Covid-19 cases numbers in the week leading up to April 18th. However, in Spain the 14-day incidence rate rose by 15.3 per cent, with further increases in Germany (13.9 per cent increase), Sweden (12.4 per cent), Portugal (8.2 per cent) and Netherlands (1.5 per cent).

During the same time period, the Irish rate dropped by 16.3 per cent to a 14-day incidence rate of 108.6 per 100,000.

Biggest fall

Israel recorded the biggest fall in incidence rate numbers (30 per cent) followed by the UK at 22 per cent and Czechia, also known as the Czech Republic, with 23 per cent.

The death rate dropped across most countries in the week leading up to April 18th, with the Irish rate recorded at 24 per million people. However, the 14-day death rate in Austria, Sweden, Germany and Norway increased during this period. Portugal, the UK and Czechia have recorded the highest death rates from the virus since January, peaking at 375, 253 and 223 per million people respectively.

Czechia and Portugal also recorded the highest Covid-related hospital and ICU numbers so far this year with hospitalisations surpassing 600 per million of the population in both countries in February and ICU admissions reaching 80 per million people.

While these numbers have dropped in Portugal, figures remained high in Italy, Czechia and France in mid-April.

During the same period, hospitalisations and ICU admissions in Ireland fell by 12 per cent (43.1 per million) and 8.6 per cent respectively.

The test positivity rate in Ireland in the week leading up to April 11th fell by 16.5 per cent down to 2.6 per cent. While most other countries recorded a similar downwards trends, positive case numbers increased in Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Spain.

Both doses

Israel and the UK had carried out the highest number of vaccinations by April 13th, with 57.3 per cent of Israelis and 12 per cent of people in the UK fully vaccinated. Denmark had the third highest rate at 8.1 per cent while Ireland recorded 6.4 per cent of people had received both doses.

All countries assessed in the report, excluding England, Finland, Israel, Italy and Norway, were still operating under “highest risk level” lockdown measures in early April.

Israel had introduced a “green pass” system for those who were fully vaccinated while Denmark also introduced its own “corona passes” system.

Night time curfews remained in place in six countries – Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain – while people in the Netherlands and Portugal were advised to stay home. In France, travel was limited to within 10km of a person’s home while in Ireland, people could only travel within their county or 20km of their home if crossing county borders.

Outdoor dining

Bars and restaurants were open in Spain, Sweden and Israel while outdoor dining was permitted in England and Portugal.

The report notes that rapid antigen tests were available in all countries but that testing based on unsupervised self-tests or self-sampling was only in use in Austria, Czechia, England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Portugal and Sweden.