| 1.2°C Belfast

Medical chief defends school closures as Ireland sees spike in Covid-19 cases

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that schools, colleges and other public facilities would close for a fortnight from Thursday evening.

Close

Dr Tony Holohan, Ireland’s chief medical officer, said closing schools was an ‘important part of the strategy’ and did not rule out a further extension of the closures (Niall Carson/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan, Ireland’s chief medical officer, said closing schools was an ‘important part of the strategy’ and did not rule out a further extension of the closures (Niall Carson/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan, Ireland’s chief medical officer, said closing schools was an ‘important part of the strategy’ and did not rule out a further extension of the closures (Niall Carson/PA)

Ireland’s chief medical officer has defended school closures after 27 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Republic of Ireland, an increase from 43 on Wednesday.

This is the biggest spike in cases in the country since the outbreak began.

Some 22 cases confirmed on Thursday are associated with local transmission, two are associated with community transmission and three are associated with travel.

Three of the new cases are in intensive care units (ICU), bringing the total number of patients in ICU to six.

There are now 70 confirmed cases in the Republic of Ireland, and 20 cases in Northern Ireland as of Thursday afternoon, bringing the total number of cases on the island of Ireland to 90.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced on Thursday that schools, colleges and other public facilities in the Republic of Ireland would close for a fortnight from Thursday evening, as part of measures to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak.

But schools and colleges in Northern Ireland were to remain open.

Dr Tony Holohan, Ireland’s chief medical officer, said this was the right approach for the Republic of Ireland.

We recognise there might be differences between what is being issued on two parts of this island and we will continue to engage with colleagues across the border to try to ensure we can harmonise the advice and guidance ...Dr Tony Holohan, Ireland's chief medical officer

During the media briefing at the Department of Health, journalists and speakers were seated further apart as part of social distancing measures.

Dr Holohan said public health officials were “concerned” after they were notified about more cases identified on Wednesday night.

He said closing schools was an “important part of the strategy” and did not rule out a further extension of the closures.

“We have assessed the situation from our point of view and we believe that closing schools is an important part of the strategy for the reasons of ultimately protecting older and vulnerable people from schoolchildren who may not be significantly affected in terms of the illness,” he said.

“This is an evidence-based measure we are taking and we are aware there are differences between the advice that we have issued and that mandated in the UK but we think we have taken the right steps and measures in line with the guidance from the European Centre for Disease Control.

“We recognise there might be differences between what is being issued on two parts of this island and we will continue to engage with colleagues across the border to try to ensure we can harmonise the advice and guidance and the messaging that we give to the population that we share on this island.”

PA