Keeping children out of school until September carries the same risk as not returning them before that date according to a Dublin GP.
Primary and secondary schools have been closed since March and it is unclear if they will re-open in September.
However Dr Aoife Ni Sheaghdha wants primary schools to re-open with limited capacity from June.
She said while she understands the need to protect the health of people in the community, children need routine and stimulation.
“There’s no medical evidence that children are at high risk of transmitting this virus.
“So it doesn’t make sense for the schools to be postponed for a prolonged period of time anymore.
“And… school is good for children, and the not being at school is having an impact on their mental and physical health.”
“At the start of the lockdown we didn’t know much about this virus – it made sense – there was a worry that children were super-spreaders, so it made sense for the Government to shut down all the schools and see what’s happening.
In the weeks and months since then, there’s more and more evidence coming that actually children aren’t super-spreaders with Covid, they don’t seem to transmit it between each other or to people at high risk.
“So I feel it’s a living document and I feel the Government should address this”.
She quoted HIQA and the ECDC as saying that the transmission between children appears to be very low. Over 7,200 children waiting for physiotherapy assessment
“Denmark opened [schools] a month ago, and they’ve been fine there hasn’t been – thankfully – a big surge of Covid cases after that, so that’s a good sign and a reassuring sign”.
“School is good for children – it mightn’t feel like that when you’re running out the door at 8.30 for the school run, but we know children thrive on routine, they socialise with their friends.
“And not going to school has a risk as well.
“We can see it: it’s impacting on their mental health, children learn through play, not through laptops, not through remote learning.
“And this is not a slight on the teachers and parents, I think they’re doing a fantastic job, but unfortunately children are just not designed to learn remotely and largely.
More importantly, though, school is a safe haven for children.
But she said she is not calling for a complete return to school.
“I don’t see why we can’t do smaller classes – 10 people, two hours a day – and rotate it for two or three times a week – and see how it goes and do it gradually.
“Rather than everybody go back in September”.