The State’s Covid-19 testing programme will be “busy” in schools this month, a health official has said.

Niamh O’Beirne, the HSE national lead for testing and tracing, said on Sunday that the HSE “certainly expects schools to be busy from a testing perspective for the month of September”.

She said that the HSE was already referring schoolchildren for testing and tracking close contacts in schools since they re-opened.

“It is expected that there will be a degree of transmission in schools but the advice from public health has remained as before and all the measures are in place within the schools.”

She said that testing in the 0-14 age group was 40 per cent higher than other age cohorts, but had so far shown a lower positivity rate of around 10 per cent.

Niamh O’Beirne during an HSE briefing earlier this year (Leon Farrell/PA)

Ms O’Beirne, speaking several days after public transport returned to 100 per cent capacity, said that so far the data indicated that very few close contacts were being recorded from trains, buses and other forms of transport.

She said that Ireland’s testing capacity was not full and had “a little bit of space”.

The HSE is predicting that it will carry out between 18,000-20,000 tests on Monday – a figure close to the service’s capacity for community testing.

“It depends whether it is transient, and just lasts for a few days as the peak, or whether we see a consistent demand at that level,” Ms O’Beirne told RTE radio.

On Saturday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Ireland should “take some heart” from early indications that rates of Covid-19 may be declining.

Ms O’Beirne said that trend was real, with referrals from the 15-24 age group declining.