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Editor's Viewpoint

Reopening of schools is welcomed

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'Irrespective of the arguments for or against the reopening of Northern Ireland's schools, it does at least symbolize the re-introduction of a sense of normality to society here.' (Ben Birchall/PA)

'Irrespective of the arguments for or against the reopening of Northern Ireland's schools, it does at least symbolize the re-introduction of a sense of normality to society here.' (Ben Birchall/PA)

PA

'Irrespective of the arguments for or against the reopening of Northern Ireland's schools, it does at least symbolize the re-introduction of a sense of normality to society here.' (Ben Birchall/PA)

Irrespective of the arguments for or against the reopening of Northern Ireland's schools, it does at least symbolize the re-introduction of a sense of normality to society here.

The Stormont Executive has moved swiftly to assuage the concerns of those who believe that the reopening of classrooms will increase the risk of the transmission of Covid-19 by mandating the wearing of face-coverings by pupils of 11 and above, while travelling to and from school by bus.

Supporters of reopening cite the importance of minimizing the disruption to children's education, as well as the negative health and wellbeing outcomes caused by being forced to stay at home.

The disruption caused by working parents required to make alternative childcare arrangements, including the cost of these, are also cited by those people who would keep schools open in all but the worst depths of the pandemic.

Similar to all decisions taken by the Executive since March, this is essentially a balancing exercise. As with lockdown itself, the extended closure of schools is the surest way of limiting transmission, but at what cost?

Worryingly, child welfare charities say that children in abusive domestic relationships are at greater risk the longer the schools stay closed. There also appears to be an inconsistency in Executive policy. On the one hand it recommends that anyone who can work from home, should do so. On the other hand, however, it sanctions thousands of children and hundreds of staff mixing at close quarters on school property.

Children are less likely to contract the virus, and if they do, their symptoms are likely to be milder. However if they are asymptomatic, they can still spread Covid-19.

In reality, everything to do with Covid-19 divides opinion between doctors and scientists, and even members of the Stormont Executive.

However in this country particularly, optics are everything, and the reopening of schools on Monday will at least send out the message that things are returning to normal, however slowly.

Belfast Telegraph


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