Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly sparked even more confusion surrounding the new restrictions in an interview on Wednesday evening where he compared the risk of sending kids back to that of driving a car or jumping on a trampoline.
The Health Minister has been trending on Twitter overnight with widespread backlash for his comparisons coming days after the Government announced a host of new restrictions to stem the spread of Covid-19.
In an interview with Virgin Media's Zara King, Donnelly was asked how it is justified to put 30 children in a classroom together from next week as Ireland's case numbers continue to rise.
“There's things we do in life that inherently carry a risk & we’ve got to manage that risk… that’s what the measures are about”— Virgin Media News (@VirginMediaNews) August 19, 2020
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has defended the new COVID-19 restrictions & the decision to reopen schools@ZaraKing | #VMNews | @DonnellyStephen pic.twitter.com/IHTeepkPGM
The Minister replied by stating that "classroom setting is a controlled environment," and that Department of Education has been working closely with public health experts, teachers and principals to make sure that "the infection prevention and control measures that are required are in place".
“So our homes, most of our homes are not controlled environments but schools are. And so they’re fundamentally different and are considered different from the public health doctors.”
When asked if he appreciated and understood that parents are worried about sending their kids back to school next week, Donnelly said:
“I think every one of us is worried, we’re dealing with an awful virus, that we’re still learning a lot about. I’ve got three primary school kids. It would be a very unusual situation for us not to be worried. I mean we worry about our children going back to school when there’s no Covid. Of course we worry about our children going back to school. No question about it.
“We manage risk in our lives. Every time we get into a car, you know, driving a car is an inherently risky thing to do. So we have seat belts and we have rules of the road. We have all of these things. Playing sports is an inherently risky thing to do, you know.
“Our children being on trampolines is an inherently risky thing for them to be…”
Reporter Zara King then asked if the risks from cars, trampolines and sports were comparable to the risk of Covid-19.
“Well driving cars, people die on the roads, lots of people die on the roads," he replied.
"The risk is not necessarily much higher. This is about recognising there are things we do in life which inherently carry a risk and we got to manage that risk and unfortunately until we have a vaccine, widely distributed for Covid-19, that is the case.
"That’s what the measures are about. They’re about saying ‘let’s move now, let’s not move until community transmission goes up and up, let’s move now to do what we know will work to reduce community transmission so that the schools can reopen’.”