SCHOOLS in Ireland are to begin reopening on March 1, according to Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Speaking to the Live 96 Limerick radio show, Mr Martin confirmed that a phased reopening of all junior classes will begin next month, following the gradual reopening of special education classes over the past week.
He said the Government is hoping to begin sending junior infants, senior infants, first and second class students back in school in just over 10 days' time, adding that a definitive decision on the exact plan will be made later today, and announced next week.
"We will be reopening schools on phased basis. The indications are that it will likely be at the beginning of March," Martin said.
"We will be having a meeting today with the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19, [where] NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team) will be making a presentation to us.
"The public health authorities want to do this on a gradual basis because they want to monitor the impact of increased mobilisation of people on the spread of the disease.
"Too many people coming back at the one time is just not possible because of the impact, given the nature of the variant that we now have, which is highly transmissible and more dangerous.
"In terms of the next number of months, we're looking at a very slow and cautious reopening [of schools].
"We want to roll out the vaccines and get as many people vaccinated as possible, that will drive down the spread.
"We have already seen in the nursing homes settings and hospital settings that the outbreaks are reducing, the number of people getting the disease is reducing as a result of the first vaccine being administered.
"That does give us hope and it does give us a sense that if we are very cautious, we can keep the trajectory of the virus down."