Ireland readies to reopen schools amid rising Covid-19 cases

The Irish government has issued an advisory for parents of primary and secondary students as part of its latest efforts to prepare for a safe reopening of schools next week.

The two-page Back to School Advice for Parents, which was issued by the Irish Department of Education and Skills on Monday, comes in 21 foreign languages, including French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Pashto, Kurdish and Somali, reports Xinhua news agency.

There are an estimated one million students studying at some 4,000 primary and secondary schools in Ireland, according to a report by the national radio and television broadcaster RTE.

According to the advisory, all the staff and students at secondary schools must wear face coverings where it is impossible to maintain the 2-metre social distancing and wearing a face covering when waiting for and aboard a school bus is mandatory for all secondary school students.

Parents of secondary school students are also advised to encourage their children to go to school on foot or bike.

Younger children at primary schools may not be required to practice physical distancing, but they may be organized into pods, it said.

To ensure social distancing on school buses, Irish Minister for Education Norma Foley said last week that her department has decided to cut the capacity on secondary school transport by 50 per cent.

This requires an additional 1,600 school buses across Ireland next week, she said, adding that her department is now in discussion with Bus Eireann to roll out the additional required capacity as quickly and speedily as possible.

The Irish Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science on Monday announced a $5.9 million funding for the support of students’ mental health and wellbeing at colleges and universities.

Part of the funding will be used to recruit additional student counsellors and assistant psychologists, said the department in a statement.

Last month, the Irish government announced a 375-million-euro school reopening plan, of which 75 million euros will be used to alter buildings and classrooms to ensure one-meter physical distancing at secondary schools, according to Foley.

On Monday night, the Department of Health reported 147 new coronavirus cases in Ireland, which took the total to 28,116, while the death toll stood at 1,777.