SIR – There has been much focus on the measures being adopted by school communities to minimise the risks of Covid-19 infection.
However, a number of issues need clarification. Perhaps your readers can enlighten me on the school bus situation. It seems the original plan for students on school buses was to run them at near or full capacity as in previous years, with the addition of students wearing face masks and using hand sanitisers.
Then, following NPHET advice of August 18th last to run school buses at half capacity to ensure social distancing, the Department has to find 1,200-plus extra buses to implement this new policy.
The Education Minister Norma Foley has said the extra buses would be provided on a phased basis over time, but gave no indication of the timescale involved. In the meantime, she implicitly accepted that school buses would operate at near of full capacity with no scope for social distancing.
This is a very worrying situation. Adequate social distancing is one of the key medical recommendations made to the public since the beginning of the Covid crisis. There is a danger that, despite the heroic efforts of all concerned in schools, this school bus fiasco could end up being the ‘Achilles Heel’ in the overall re-opening plan.
It must not be forgotten that half of post-primary students are young adults and we are told that, in terms of transmission, they are capable of spreading the virus like adults.
The full premature re-opening without sufficient safety measures in place is a cause of deepest concern. In my view there is overwhelming evidence for a more nuanced and gradual approach to school re-opening.