A WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) expert has warned that Irish schools will be forced to shut again if there are coronavirus spikes in the local area.
Earlier this month, the government announced that schools would be reopening at the end of August, and on Monday published the long-awaited roadmap for the education system.
Speaking to Morning Ireland however, David Nabarro - the WHO's special envoy on Covid-19 - insisted that the country shouldn't hesitate to close them down again should a local spike in coronavirus cases occur.
"We do need to be aware that if a school is functioning in an area where there is transmission underway and there is a spike occurring, then it is quite likely that that school will end up being asked to close for a period of time while the spike of transmission is dealt with," Nabarro explained.
He added that children spreading the disease wasn't necessarily the concern, but that schools can act as crowded meeting areas where the virus could spread more easily.
"The role of schools in accelerating existing outbreaks or even initiating outbreaks is not clear," he said.
"Most people have come to the conclusion that the children themselves, especially the younger children, do not play a major role in spreading this disease.
"But there is an awful lot that happens in and around the school in terms of people meeting and the possibility there for transmission.
"That has been found to be a factor that has led to some new outbreaks being exacerbated in different parts of the world.
"We will not have a neat, clean strategy for schools for the coming months. It’s going to be a little bit of touch and go.
"What I will say to everybody is that it’s reasonable for schools to be restarting in a phased manner, certainly in a careful manner.
"But, at the same time, we do need to be aware that if a school is functioning in an area where there is transmission underway and there is a spike occurring, then it is quite likely that that school will end up being asked to close for a period of time while the spike of transmission is dealt with.
"Please don’t be too alarmed that if from time to time there have to be some shift and a school that has been working has to close for a period while an outbreak is dealt with."