Covid-19 and schools

 

Sir, -– In the last week of August, with daily new Covid cases averaging around 80, schools reopened. Three weeks later and daily cases are averaging around 200 and rising fast. Given the delays in the onset of symptoms, and in scheduling and processing Covid tests, current figures likely represent people infected a week or more ago, with the true figure significantly greater.

Covid incidence is highest in Dublin, and in particular in the Dublin South East health district. In most of the country children go to their local school because options are limited. In Dublin, however, parents often have the opportunity to send their children to a number of local schools. This means that Dublin classrooms are much more likely to contain children from several different localities. Their older or younger siblings will be in different classes with children from a different mix of places.

Some areas of Dublin have a richer selection of schools than other. This is particularly true of the Dublin South East district, a fact well known to estate agents and readers of The Irish Times property section.

As long as children are mixing closely in school, many parents take the view that there is no issue with children mixing closely in other circumstances. I have witnessed children carefully separated into bubbles and pods in school walk out of the gate and into cars with children from other families, and for children from a mix of classes to be gathered together at the gate for transport together to after-school care. Children over the past few weeks have been going on play-dates in each other’s houses and attending birthday and communion parties, frequently in groups.

Current understanding is that children suffer very mild Covid symptoms generally and often carry the illness with no symptoms. Many parents have historically had no issue with sending clearly ill children to school and this seems to be still the case. Department of Education guidelines are that children with mild illness symptoms like runny noses should go to school. Not all schools are checking temperatures, and not all parents are either. All of these factors taken together mean that Dublin schools are an ideal breeding ground for the transmission of Covid to the wider community.

In discussing the rise in infection rates over the past few days at no time has any member of the health services or the Government addressed this elephant in the room, or even mentioned schools as a possible factor in increasing Covid infection rates, despite frequent assertions that “transmission is mainly occurring in the home”.

What is the point in closing expensive restaurants while leaving schools open? – Yours, etc,

JOHN THOMPSON,

Phibsboro,

Dublin 7.