In January the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) advised that the prevailing profile of COVID-19 in Ireland and the available evidence and experience of the Omicron variant allowed for a fundamental change in the management of COVID-19. It advised that this should entail a transition, in broad terms, from a focus on regulation and population wide restrictions to a focus on public health advice, personal judgement and personal protective behaviour.
Following further advice from NPHET received after its last meeting on 17 February, the Government has today announced that the following measures will be removed with effect from Monday 28 February:
– Public health measures in early learning and care settings, school-aged childcare, primary and secondary schools, including physical distancing measures such as play-pods, and mask wearing.
– Mandatory mask wearing in areas where it is currently regulated for, including: public transport, taxis, retail and other indoor public settings, and staff in hospitality settings.
In line with NPHET recommendations, the following advice will continue to be important as these measures are removed:
– Continuing infection prevention and control measures in early learning and care settings, school-aged childcare, primary and secondary schools, including in relation to ventilation, hygiene measures and advice to stay at home if symptomatic. These measures are important for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 but also for mitigating the spread of other viral infections. Some adults and children will wish to continue wearing masks and no adult or child who wishes to do so should be discouraged.
DCEDIY will continue to work with the HPSC in relation to providing sector specific guidance, based on risk assessments, to ensure a safe environment including in relation to the promotion of rapid self-isolation when symptomatic, hand and respiratory hygiene, ventilation, signage, and use of face masks if appropriate.
During this transition phase:
– Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or other viral respiratory tract infection should self-isolate until 48 hours after symptoms have substantially or fully resolved.
– Testing will no longer be needed for clinical or public health purposes for otherwise healthy younger people (<55 years) with symptoms.
– PCR testing remains advised for certain cohorts and current guidance should be followed in this regard.
– Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 should follow current guidance (self-isolate for 7 days from date of onset of symptoms, or if asymptomatic, date of first positive test. Exit from self-isolation after day 7 on basis that symptoms have substantially or fully resolved for the final two of those seven days. Anyone exiting at day 7 should continue to adhere to other public health protective measures, including appropriate use of masks, until at least day 10)
– Asymptomatic close contacts do not need to restrict movements; if they develop symptoms, they should self-isolate.
Over the coming period, people will perceive the risk of COVID-19 infection in different ways, depending on their individual medical history and experience of the pandemic to date.
The exemption to the turnover rule for early learning and care and school-age childcare providers to access the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) will remain in place until end April – at a flat rate of €100 per week – which may support providers with any transition period needed as these measures are unwound.
You can read a statement from Minister O’Gorman on the removal of the public health restrictions by clicking the button below.
Early Years Division