Relaxing isolation rules ‘proportionate’ to Omicron impact – Holohan

The relaxation of isolation rules for Covid-19 situations and close contacts was “proportionate” given the impact of the Omicron variant, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has said.

Speaking at a media briefing after the Government announced the changes, Dr Holohan said that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) was taking “substantial assurance” in the protection afforded by high vaccination rates against Omicron to be able to recommend the new rules, despite the high level of daily infections and increase in hospitalisations.

Daily situations of more than 20,000 would have been “mindblowing” a year ago, he said, but there have been “fewer serious complications” from Omicron due to the protection against harsh illness due to high rates of vaccinations and boosters.

He stressed the changes, coming into effect on Friday, were not about “abandoning” Covid-19 measures but replacing them with new guidance on wearing higher-grade masks and taking regular antigen tests.

Rejecting the possibility of antigen tests and higher-grade masks being sent to every household, he said that this would be a “very meaningful” cost and “out of proportion”.

‘motive’

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said free antigen tests and higher-grade masks would be “an motive” for people to register positive antigen test results with the HSE.

Dr Holohan said Nphet would need another week to be certain about the possible impact on the country’s health system and know that “some things we might have feared” will not happen.

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