A leading immunologist has expressed “surprise” at Nphet’s call for parents to limit children’s activities to prevent the spread of Covid-19, saying the focus should instead be on making schools safer.
NUI Maynooth Professor Paul Moynagh said after-school activities, many of which are outdoor, are low risk compared to being in classrooms with 30 other children.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn this week called on parents to restrict the number of after-school activities for children to help reduce transmission of the virus.
Children in the five to 12 age category are currently being infected with the virus at a higher rate than the rest of the population.
The incidence rate of infection per 100,000 children aged five to 12 now stands at 436 cases.
Professor Moynagh described children’s activities outside school as generally low risk.
Those activities outside of school, many of them are outdoors and are inherently low risk. So I don’t really understand in terms of the focus on lower-risk areas while we tend to neglect high-risk areas.
“We seem to be saying that the activities outside of school are higher risk than the risk in school where there are thirty children in a room for five hours. I absolutely agree that schools should be open but that to me probably poses a higher risk,” he told Newstalk radio.
Professor Moynagh says we should be increasing our emphasis on issues such as ventilation, portable air filtration and antigen testing rather than zoning in on low-risk outdoor activities.
“We should be looking, in my view, at where the higher risks are.”
Where children become close contacts of a confirmed case, Mr Moynagh said the parents should be sent antigen tests and can then test the children every second day for a week.
“Supplement that with more focus on ventilation, complementing that with portable air filtration. We need to be more proactive around the areas of high risk. “
Professor Moynagh says that the messaging around antigen testing has been inconsistent. However, he has welcomed suggestions that vaccinated asymptomatic close contacts will now potentially receive antigen test