Cabinet agrees to relax rules on close contacts of COVID-19 cases, paving way for thousands of people to return to their workplaces

The cabinet has agreed to relax rules on close contacts of COVID-19 cases, paving the way for thousands of people to return to their workplaces.

Ministers agreed to proposals by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly that close contacts of confirmed cases no longer need to restrict their movements for five days after getting a booster shot.

It is understood the measures will go into effect from midnight tomorrow, and should enable thousands of people who were staying at home to return to work.

The changes came after Nphet recommended approval of advice from the European Center for Disease Control, which recommended relaxation of the rule for countries whose health systems were under severe strain from staff shortages.

Going into cabinet on Wednesday morning, Taoiseach Michael Martin said: “The peak has not yet been reached, with public health officials predicting that we will peak within the next week or two.

“Oi can’t be sure or sure about it, we have to be very cautious about covid and omicron because more than a thousand people are in hospital and no one goes to hospital unless you are sick.

“So we understand that this is a very dangerous virus.”

He said the “best weapon we have” is vaccination and adhering to public health guidelines.

Earlier, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has welcomed new advice from Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan to ease restriction rules to fully promote close contacts.

Under the advice, which is being brought to cabinet by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on Wednesday morning, close contacts who have fully grown without any symptoms will not have to restrict their movements. Close contacts who do not have a booster vaccine will have to restrict their movement for seven days and isolate all positive cases for seven days.

The proposals come as an omicron wave in Europe and Ireland, with Dr Holohan estimating that 500,000 people may have been infected here last week. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that up to half the population of Western Europe could be infected in the next six to eight weeks.