At yesterday evening's Covid-19 briefing by the National Public Health Emergency Team, a number of speakers outlined why they believe schools are relatively safe environments, while concern was expressed over the general trends in the virus.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the briefing.

'Little evidence of any improvement'

At the beginning of the briefing, Prof Philip Nolan, Chair of NPHET's Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, set out a sombre warning that the trends have not been positive.

After his initial summary that the epidemic is worsening rather than improving in Ireland, Prof Nolan gave a detailed breakdown of the trends, warning that we could see 2,500 cases a day by the end of the month if current rates of infection continue.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said community transmission is widespread and it is no longer possible to trace all infections and contacts. 

Reduce discretionary contacts

The Chief Medical Officer reiterated the advice that people should reduce their socialising as much as possible.

Work from home

Asked about reports of employers trying to bring more people back into workplaces, Dr Holohan said that just as individuals should take responsibility for reducing their social interactions as much as possible, employers should take responsibility for facilitating their workers to do so.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said they were hearing concerning reports that many employees were still going to work despite experiencing symptoms of Covid-19.

He said now more than ever it is unacceptable to go to work when you are sick.


Schools

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said there was a lot of anxiety when schools were reopening, but international evidence at the time suggested that communities were more likely to pose a risk to schools rather than the other way around.

This appears to have been borne out here too, with little evidence of onward transmission of Covid-19 in schools, and lower positivity rates in school communities than the general population.

Dr Henry said it appears widespread community transmission is a threat to schools but that schools are not a threat to communities.

Responding to a suggestion that schools could be a source of unexplained household outbreaks, Prof Nolan said that it was very unlikely.

Dr Glynn observed that while there has been an increase in the number of cases in school-aged children, the rate of increase in this group is lower than in the wider community.

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