Dr Tony Holohan proposes major change to close contact rules ahead of Cabinet meeting

By Ferghal Blaney

Restrictions on movement for boosted close contacts with no Covid symptoms are set to be scrapped from Wednesday.

And the isolation period for everybody who gets Covid will now be seven days max, down from ten.

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, has received updated advice from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Tony Holohan, and the Cabinet is preparing to act on it at a meeting tomorrow morning.

It is also expected that the change in permissions that would set more people free from restrictions would come with new warnings to double-down on other public health measures.

A special new emphasis will be placed on the continued wearing of masks and the regular use of antigen tests.

Mr Donnelly, told The Hard Shoulder on Newstalk on Tuesday evening: “I’ve received updated advice and I’ll be recommending that Cabinet agree to it.”

He added: “if you have boosted immunity, currently you’re asked to restrict your movements for five days, that requirement will go completely, so no restricted movement if you have boosted immunity.”

And he confirmed that the new advice will see those who aren’t boosted only having to isolate for seven days, a change from the current ten.

Regular antigen tests will still be required for close contacts.

Calls for the change to be introduced came after many sectors, including retail, healthcare and education, saw their workforces decimated by the strict isolation and restrictions rules.

A massive Omicron surge over Christmas saw schools struggling to find teachers, hospitals under staff pressure and shops seeing up to 25% of their workers quarantined at home.

This was because of the severe contact and tracing rules requiring close contacts of confirmed cases to restrict their movements or self-isolate for five to ten days, depending on vax status.

It was also revealed last night that the Omicron variant of Covid was so rampant in the country last week that Dr Holohan believed there were half a million infections in the week.

Elsewhere, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar reaffirmed the Government plans to lift restrictions again from the end of this month as promised.

The most eagerly anticipated of these would be the lifting of an 8pm curfew on all public indoor activities, like cinemas and theatres, and hospitality in pubs and restaurants.

Mr Varadkar said: “I think there is ground for cautious optimism certainly in the immediate term.”

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