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New study 10pc of children missed two weeks of school last year for being a close contact

Despite the relatively high figure, less than 4pc of the under-18 population was diagnosed with Covid

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One in ten children missed two weeks of school in the last academic year due to being deemed a close contact of someone with Covid-19, a new study from the HSE has revealed. 

Overall 100,000, about 10pc, of the school-going population were put out as close contacts for two weeks with restricted movements, so still a substantial number,” the HSE’s public health schools response lead, Dr Abigail Collins, said.

However, Dr Collins said that, of all those schoolchildren deemed close contacts, 2.36pc in primary schools tested positive while just under 2pc tested positive in secondary schools.

“[The study] shows that over the course of the academic year just under 4pc of the five-to-18 population were diagnosed with Covid-19. The close-contact positivity was very low compared to other settings and very stable across the year.”

Meanwhile, infectious disease expert Professor Jack Lambert has said Ireland can’t keep delaying the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

He states that delaying the easing of restrictions and locking down is “not a plan”, and that a full ‘living with Covid’ plan is needed.

However, he added that public health measures will still need to be followed as vaccines aren’t the sole “magic bullet” to end the pandemic.

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital surpassed 300 people yesterday for the first time since March.

Speaking to Newstalk, Prof Lambert said: "Covid is serious – I’m not downplaying that. I take care of patients in the ICU. But I think there is a lot of collateral damage.

“We do need a plan, and we can’t just keep delaying. Delaying is not a plan, and lockdown is not a plan. Lockdown and delaying, to me, shows a lack of a plan for living with Covid.”

Despite Prof Lambert’s assertions, the Irish Independent revealed today that Nphet wants the majority of younger people vaccinated before the remaining Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

Around 85pc of the adult population are now vaccinated, but it will be some weeks before there is a high level of vaccination among the under-18s.

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It takes at least two weeks after a person gets their final dose before they are ­considered fully vaccinated.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio today, Nphet’s Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group chair said "we have not yet reached the level of vaccine protection that we would like to have".

Prof Philip Nolan said vaccination will be key to overcoming the Delta variant and that the current wave of infections should start to decline from mid-September, and from then on catching or spreading the virus should reach the lowest point to date.

He added that although some key public health guidelines such as mask wearing and social distancing should be needed for some time to come, “we have to prepare a plan to remove remaining formal restrictions over time”.

The Government hopes there will be a high level of vaccination among adults and children by mid-September and it can then begin the process of easing restrictions.

However, the new plan for living with Covid, which will be published next week, is expected to outline only incremental easing of restrictions over the coming months.
 

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