Expert tells RTE's Brendan O'Connor that most kids under 12 will get Covid before spring
Most children under age 12 in Ireland will catch Covid-19 before spring, according to infectious disease consultant Dr Clíona Ní Cheallaigh.
Speaking to Brendan O’Connor on his RTÉ Radio One show Sunday, Ní Cheallaigh told him we need to “face facts” when it comes to Covid-19 in primary schools.
She said: “If I were a betting woman, I would be probably betting that most kids in Ireland under 12 will get Covid before this Spring, the way we’re going on now.”
O’Connor was left shocked by this statement, later describing it as a “Corn Flake dropping moment”.
Ní Cheallaigh’s prediction is based on modelling done in the US and conversations with her colleagues in infectious disease.
She said: “We have a lot of kids in a small environment without masks and we know that’s the type of environment that Covid spreads in."
Thankfully, children don’t tend to get very unwell with the virus. However, a small percentage of less than 1% will. Ní Cheallaigh said: “That’s problem number one with letting Covid run through that age group.”
A big concern is long Covid in children and the uncertainty surrounding the long term impacts.
While “there may be none”, there is data coming from the UK, among others, suggesting that between 2-10% of children will have symptoms months after they initially contract the virus.
“For that reason, and because I think vaccines are coming down the line for between 5s and 12s, I would strongly be recommending that we get primary school age kids to wear masks and that we really urgently sort out the ventilation in classes as much as possible,” Ní Cheallaigh said.
O’Connor reassured the audience by telling them that this scenario can be avoided if certain precautions are taken.
Ní Cheallaigh agreed: “That’s my prediction. It’s not 100% sure. I think we can avoid it if we do what we know works really well in preventing Covid transmission indoors, which is ventilation and masks.”
She also suggested asking children and teachers what they think would be best in keeping their schools opens, as many kids may actually want to wear masks in order to protect themselves and their families.