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transmission fears UK variant 'more infectious among children', says Trinity professor

'Schools should reopen on a county-by-county basis,' he said.


School children in classroom at lesson

School children in classroom at lesson

School children in classroom at lesson

THE UK Covid-19 strain is more contagious for children than previous variants, a leading expert has said.

Trinity College professor Tomás Ryan said comparing the positivity rate in schools to that in the community was "a nonsense comparison".

Prof Ryan is a member of the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group and said children "contribute to community spread" of the virus.

"It is not a like-with-like comparison. Schools are not safe, schools are safe when the community around them is safe," he told Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1.

"Children do get infected and do contribute to the infection rate within the community.

"The B117 variant that is now dominant in Ireland is more infectious to children.

"It is not true that the only risk to schools reopening are the parents moving around it.

"That is not true. This virus does infect children and they do contribute to community spread.

"Some very relevant modelling done recently in the UK suggested that if you opened all of the primary schools, you certainly will increase the R number in the country significantly. The same is likely true of Ireland."

Prof Ryan said the reopening of schools should be done on a county-by-county basis, decided by case numbers.

"Numbers are coming down in Cork and Kerry very well, but we're not seeing the same in Dublin," he said.

"I don't think we can have a blanket policy on this.

"We should be seeing what we can do to mitigate transmission in schools. We haven't seen enough done on this.

"We need more face mask wearing, we need much more advice on ventilation.

"There are many things the Department of Education could be doing to make schools safer than they are, and I think that should be a priority on that aspect of the plan."

Prof Ryan, who is an advocate for the Zero Covid strategy, said that while the possibility of lockdown until the end of April is "depressing", there was one positive that could be taken from it.

"This gives us the opportunity to properly stamp out Covid-19 in Ireland and, at the same time, put in place mandatory quarantine to stop it from coming into the country," he said.

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