Minister for Health announces updates to public health management of COVID-19 cases and close contacts
Following advice from the Chief Medical Officer, and, in light of the latest available evidence and international experience relating to COVID-19, the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, has announced changes to Ireland’s self-isolation and restriction of movement rules following a Government meeting today (Wednesday).
The changes relate to the public health management of COVID-19.
Minister Donnelly said: “As we are all aware, the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is having a significant impact on our health service with over 1,000 people currently in hospital with COVID-19. Increased rates of infection in the community are also having a knock-on effect on other essential services. Today’s announcement, which is informed by the latest guidance from the ECDC, will help to alleviate the extreme pressure on our healthcare service and other functions in society, including essential services.
“These changes will reduce the requirement for restricted movements for close contacts while enhancing other protective measures particularly mask wearing and reiterating the importance for all of us to continue to follow the public health measures.
“Today saw the 10 millionth dose of COVID-19 vaccine administered – a milestone we should all celebrate. These changes will also enable such individuals to attend their booster vaccine appointment, supporting increased uptake in the vaccination programme overall.”
Given the high levels of infection across the country, it is particularly important that cases and close contacts continue to follow the public health advice issued to the general population. For a period of 10 days (including the 7 days self-isolation or restricted movements) all cases and close contacts are advised to:
- limit close contact with other people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
- wear an appropriate face mask/face covering in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where they are in close contact with other people
- take an antigen test before entering crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and prior to having close contact with other people from outside their household
- avoid contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19
- work from home unless it is essential to attend in person
- follow all public health protective measures
The period of restricted movements for close contacts applies from date of last contact with positive case if known or, if not, from date of notification as a contact. Close contacts of any age who have recovered following COVID-19 detected by a PCR or antigen test carried out since 1st December 2021 are not required to restrict movements or test if asymptomatic. If they become symptomatic, they should immediately self-isolate, get tested and wear a mask as appropriate.
Cabinet have decided that these updates will come into effect from Friday 14 January. The Department of Health and the HSE will now work to operationalise same.