Circuit breaker | 

Schools should close this week to limit Covid spread over Christmas, says immunologist

Closing school this Friday would create a ‘really long circuit breaker’ – leading immunologist

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Paul Hyland

A leading immunologist has said schools should close at the end of this week to limit the spread of Covid-19 among young people before they celebrate Christmas in the home.

Professor Christine Loscher of Dublin City University, said closing school this Friday would create a “really long circuit breaker” for children and reduce the risk of schools being forced to close in the new year.

Prof Loscher said the emergence of the Omicron variant has increased the likelihood of the virus spreading among the unvaccinated primary school population in particular.

“The last thing we want to be doing, is to worry about opening schools and my opinion, the kids are in for two and a half days next week. If the schools close this Friday, we have a really long circuit breaker for those children,” she told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme.

Professor Christine Loscher

“If Omicron is two to three times more transmissible, we know that it’s 10 or 11pc of cases at the moment – that’s going to increase next week. That could be up to 50-60pc next week and we have the biggest cohort of unvaccinated people – i.e. children – we will have them mixing to a huge extent coming up to Christmas before we do intergenerational mixing,” she added.

Prof Loscher said by closing schools on Friday, each child would have “seven or eight days” of minimal exposure to Covid-19 and if they have contracted the virus, the symptoms will appear before Christmas day.

“I would like to actually see a joined-up decision where we talk about being sensible and making sure we give ourselves a better chance of a safe opening of schools after Christmas, that we do everything we can to control case numbers now,” she said.

Prof Loscher said keeping schools open - where unvaccinated children are mixing and where HEPA filters are often not present – in the run-up to Christmas does not make sense.

Her comments come as speaking on the same programme yesterday, Minister of State Jack Chambers said further restrictions before Christmas are not likely and added that school closures are “not on the agenda” for Government.

People should take extra caution around the Christmas period, but Mr Chambers said there’s been progress made on reducing the number of people in hospital with the virus and that he didn’t believe there would be further restrictions coming before Christmas.

“We have been very clear; it’s not on the agenda. Government is absolutely committed to keeping schools open,” the Government Chief Whip confirmed.

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