The CEO of the Health Service Executive has said lockdown restrictions have had significant adverse consequences for children's education.

Speaking at a HSE briefing, Paul Reid said a report due to be published later on the impact of Covid-19, showed primary school children had been most affected by the restrictions.

He said that children with additional learning needs and/or special needs are disproportionately affected and anxiety levels for children may increase due to lack of routines and lack of socialisation.

He said it was an important day for children, parents and the HSE with the return to schools.

Mr Reid said that the State and public health systems need the schools to support many of their services and they need a functioning school system to support the health services.

He also said that they need children back at school for their own workforce and health care workers so they can have better supports.

Mr Reid said there is no doubt that positive cases and likely outbreaks will emerge in schools across the country but the public should be reassured that the HSE public health teams have significant experience in managing outbreaks and very defined processes.

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The HSE are working very closely with the Department of Education to provide advice to support them to develop pathways for teachers or children who may develop symptoms and may need testing, he said.

Mr Reid also said that what they had experienced with meat plants, direct provision centres and nursing homes is on a case by case basis.

The average number of Covid-19 cases a day is 104 for a 14-day period, according to Mr Reid.

The highest number of cases reported on a single day was 923 on 23 April he said.

Mr Reid said that the average number of cases across EU countries is 37 per 100,000 over 14 days.

Mr Reid said he will bring the HSE's Winter Plan to a Cabinet committee soon and hopes it will be finalised in a few weeks.

1.2m active users on Covid tracker app

On the HSE Covid Tracker App, Mr Reid said there were about 1.2 million active users. While there were 1.6m downloads, some were deleted.

So far, 663 people using the app have received close contact notifications.

Mr Reid said 308 people have uploaded their anonymous key to the Covid-19 app when they became confirmed as a positive case, helping the contact tracing process.

Around a quarter of a million people per day are logging their daily check on symptoms on the app.

Turnaround time for testing and contact tracing last week was 2.2 days. Contact tracing teams have been ramped up as the HSE deals with more complex cases and people with more contacts.

Mr Reid said that serial testing in direct provision centres will start this weekend and plans are being finalised with the various agencies and bodies and the Department of Justice.

Mr Reid said that serial testing continues on meat processing and food plants with a total workers of 50,000.

He said serial testing of health care workers is in its second phase and they have tested almost 30,000 in this phase with a relatively low positivity rate of 0.18.

End-to-end turn around time for last week had been 2.2 days in terms of contact tracing and testing.

Mr Reid said Personal Protective Equipment remains a focus and the HSE does have significant stocks and has also started the procurement process again for more stocks.

The HSE has a committed supply line up to March 2021, he said, with significant volumes of PPE being and d the HSE was beginning to see a number of Irish business supplying them.

He said we are in a very different phase and we are now living with Covid-19.

No change in the nature of the virus

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said that as of midnight last night, there were 28,199 cases of Covid-19 it is important to note that there has been no change in the nature of the virus.

The impact has not been felt in hospitals because of the age of those getting the virus, he said.

Dr Henry said children under 15 make up just 2.8% of all cases in Ireland and most cases in children are mild or asymptomatic, adding that transmission between children in a school setting is uncommon.

Dr Henry said that in the past two weeks there were over 1,400 Covid-19 cases giving case incidence of 27.5 for Ireland, which showed a steady rise since the end of July.

He said that 71% of cases were in people aged less than 45 and the median age was 32.

He also said that older people had adopted a more risk-adverse behaviour towards the virus.

HSE Chief Operations Officer Anne O'Connor has said that they are seeing a particular increase in the number of older people accessing mental health services.

She said that this was not surprising based on people cocooning and people who's health has been impacted because of the pandemic.

Ms O'Connor said there is also a high level of activity relating to child and adolescent mental health services.

She said while these services continued to operate during Covid, it was inevitable that they would have a higher rate of referral from next week onwards, because of the impact in terms of young people being off school and also the anxiety related to returning to school.