Most kids with health conditions should return to school - HSE

New advice says people with a past history of cancer do not need to stay out of workplace

Most children with underlying health conditions, and those whose parents are extremely medically vulnerable, should return to school, according to new advice from the Health Service Executive.

It is now “difficult to justify cocooning” in most children with underlying condition, given current knowledge about Covid-19, the HSE says.

“Long-term cocooning of children with complex medical needs is likely to adversely affect them and may outweigh the potential risk of infection,” according to the interim advice.

In relation to the school staff, the HSE is advising anyone in an extremely medically vulnerable category to continue working remotely. This category includes the over-70s, transplant recipients and those with severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis and severe asthma.


It also include people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy; undergoing radiotherapy for lung cancer; and people with leukaemia and other blood cancers “who are at any stage of active treatment”.

School staff facing or recovering from surgical treatments are being advised to cocoon for about two weeks.

However, people with a past history of cancer do not need to be excluded from the workforce, unless they have some other significant complication, the interim advice states.

According to the HSE, children seem generally less likely to catch Covid-19, and more likely than adults to have no symptoms or to have mild disease.

According to the advice, children with recent or ongoing cancer treatment, or any other profound immunodeficiency, should have their risk assessed by doctors “and consideration given to the possible necessity of avoiding school”.

A full return to school is recommended for the vast majority of children with cystic fibrosis.

“In terms of reassurance, from what we know to date on children and coronavirus, children have rarely been the person who brought Covid-19 into a household when household spread has happened and children are not more likely than adults to spread infection to other people.

“Schools are putting measures in place to reduce the risk of coronavirus being transmitted to/within the school, such as hand hygiene regimes and cleaning measures within the school, reduced mixing between children and less objects going in and out of school.”

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.