Kovid rules will be relaxed in the coming days for close contacts

The Health Minister has said that if the government agrees to the changes, then the rules for close contacts of Kovid cases will be relaxed in the coming days.

Stephen Donnelly is taking cabinet advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Wednesday, which is likely to see changes to the isolation rules.

Nphet recommends that people who are considered close contacts but have received a booster vaccination and have no symptoms should no longer be isolated for five days.

People who have not received a booster should limit their movements for seven days.

Mr Donnelly said an online portal to allow people to upload positive antigen test results and close contact details would be put in place over the next few days.

He said the Health Services Executive (HSE) is working through the final logistics and technical requirements before they go live.

Mr Donnelly acknowledged there is “an element of risk” in easing COVID restrictions for close contacts.

“We have seen the advice of the ECDC (European Center for Disease Prevention and Control) and undoubtedly if we relax the rules on close contacts it adds an element of risk,” he said.

“I think what we are seeing now is the support of the booster campaign and the support of the national effort.

We vaccinated as many vulnerable groups as possible before this Omicron rocket took offHealth Minister Stephen Donnelly

“Before Christmas I asked for a broader approach in the healthcare community and people stepped up in an incredible way.

“Our usual practices, the doctors, the nurses, our pharmacists, and everyone who works in pharmacies and the wonderful people working in our vaccine centers, they stopped a lot of other work that they were doing.

“They vaccinated so many people. We are second in Europe, we were leading in Europe for a long time.

“We vaccinated as many vulnerable groups as possible before this Omicron rocket took off. We knew it would happen.

“I want to thank everyone involved in that program. It has been a real national effort.”

About 2.5 million booster jabs have been administered, and Mr Donnelly said it is the success of the booster campaign that has allowed the government to change the rules.

“We have the second-highest number of cases in Europe and yet, while other countries are looking at serious measures, we are looking to ease the burden on other people,” he said.

“It is a testament to a national effort.

“We have a lot of people out of work or people who want to go about their lives. It’s quite a burden. People have followed it very closely, I think, so we’re in a positive place right now. “

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The government is set to consider a plan to ease close contacts rules, following public health advice (Niel Carson/PA)

Mr Donnelly said the changes would be implemented in the coming days.

Taoiseach Michael Martin said 10 million vaccinations have been done in the past 12 months.

He said: “The advice is very clear and it is all about balance in terms of supply chain and essential services.

“There will be more meetings regarding the restrictions. The summit has not yet been reached. Public officials predict that we will peak in the next week or two.”