| 15.8°C Belfast

Two-metre rule makes reopening schools in September difficult, minister says

The chief medical officer has said Ireland will stick with the distance guidance despite pressure from lobby groups.

Close

Officials have cast doubt as to whether all school pupils can return in September (Danny Lawson/PA)

Officials have cast doubt as to whether all school pupils can return in September (Danny Lawson/PA)

Officials have cast doubt as to whether all school pupils can return in September (Danny Lawson/PA)

Education Minister Joe McHugh has said it is difficult to see all students being able to return to school in September if the two-metre social distancing rule remains in place.

Schools are due to reopen on a phased basis in early September, according to the Government’s road map for lifting Covid-19 restrictions.

Mr McHugh told RTE radio’s Today with Sarah McInerney that the Department of Education will publish a road map for the reopening of schools in two weeks.

He said: “With the two-metre rule still in place it’s hard to see all students being back in September.”

Close

Education Minister Joe McHugh (Photocall Ireland/PA)

Education Minister Joe McHugh (Photocall Ireland/PA)

PA

Education Minister Joe McHugh (Photocall Ireland/PA)

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, who has resisted calls to support a reduction in the two-metre rule, rejected the suggestion that Mr McHugh’s comments added extra pressure on his deliberations.

He told the National Public Health Emergency Team media briefing on Thursday: “We have a clear job to do to assess and provide the best advice we can based on the available evidence and guidance that might exist around any of the public health measures that we have recommended.

Dr Holohan said the two metre guidance had been part of an inter-linked set of measures that had helped Ireland suppress the virus.

“This is the set of measures that’s worked,” he said.

“We think that now is not the time to change any individual one or indeed to overly focus on the importance of one to the exclusion of others.

“It’s the interaction between all of these different measures, including the personal behaviours that we have recommended, that have achieved the suppression of the infection that we’ve been able to achieve in this country.

“And as we move through the various different phases we’ll keep all those measures under review. If we think that either the evidence available to us or the experience that we’re seeing in other countries suggests that we should make a change in relation to one of those then we will do exactly that.”

Meanwhile, the majority of students have signed up to the Leaving Certificate calculated grades system.

Mr McHugh said efforts will be made to reach out to students who have not signed up ahead of Thursday night’s 10pm deadline.

As of 9am on Thursday, 56,000 students had signed up.

He said: “I would encourage the remaining students to get going and if they are having problems they can contact the online helpline.”

PA