MP calls for school closures

MP calls for school closures

18 March 2020

STORMONT education minister Peter Weir has been encouraged to close schools in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The appeal has been issued by South Down MP Chris Hazzard and comes just days after Sinn Fein’s northern leader, Michelle O’Neill, made a similar appeal.

Mr Hazzard said that in the interests of public health schools must close and he urged Mr Weir to act “urgently and decisively”.

The MP said that over recent days, his office has been “snowed under” with parents seeking advice in relation to Covid-19, asking Sinn Féin to bring pressure to bear on the Department of Education to close schools as is being done throughout the South and across most of Europe. 

“The World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control have made it clear that we are facing a global health pandemic,” declared Mr Hazzard.

“Both organisations have called on governments to take early, decisive, rapid, co-ordinated action. It is their expert opinion that the implementation of closures is likely to be more effective in slowing the spread of the virus than a delayed implementation. Sinn Féin agree with this approach 100%.”

Mr Hazzard said that he was encouraged last weekend to see a number of political parties, church leaders, education bodies, principals, teachers and various unions join Sinn Féin’s call for schools to be closed. 

He continued: “Belfast Special Schools — which represents 10 schools for some of our most vulnerable pupils — have decided not to wait for the Education Minister and have closed as a precautionary measure. 

“It has also been confirmed that a parent of a child who suffers from a respiratory condition has now begun the process of taking a judicial review against the decision by Mr Weir not to close schools. We all deserve better than this.”

Mr Hazzard said parents worried about the safety of their children should not be put in the position where they feel they have to go to the courts to keep them safe.

He added: “What is required now is leadership from the education minister. We need urgent and decisive action on school closures.”