Covid: Updated testing and isolation rules as Holohan advises against New Year parties

It comes as daily coronavirus cases hit a record high for the second consecutive day, with a further 20,554 infections confirmed in the Republic on Thursday.
Covid: Updated testing and isolation rules as Holohan advises against New Year parties

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has expressed concern at the State’s surging Covid-19 cases and reiterated his call for people to avoid mixing indoors.

It comes as daily coronavirus cases hit a record high for the second consecutive day, with a further 20,554 infections confirmed in the Republic on Thursday.

The new daily case figure breaks the previous high of 16,428 announced on Wednesday.

Dr Holohan wrote a letter with his concerns to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, following a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) earlier on Thursday.

The Department of Health later outlined changes to Covid-19 testing advice. Anyone aged 39 and under with symptoms of Covid-19 is now advised to use antigen testing at home.

Those who test positive with an antigen test should then seek a PCR test to confirm the result.

Mr Donnelly said the decision was made in view of very large volumes of disease, and to ensure the best use of available testing capacity.

Advice has also changed for those self-isolating after a positive test result.

Those aged 12 and over who have had their booster vaccine jabs for at least seven days should self-isolate for seven days, instead of the previous advice of 10 days.

Those exiting isolation after seven days should:

  • Limit to the greatest extent possible close contact with other people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
  • Wear a face mask 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

Mr Donnelly said Covid incidence "has continued to rapidly increase" in the State, with recent daily case counts substantially exceeding the highest previously reported in the pandemic to date.

"The 14-day incidence is now estimated at over 2,300 per 100,000 population. We are seeing levels of new daily cases in hospital that we have not seen since last January," he said.

Mr Donnelly confirmed that approximately 92 per cent of cases are now due to the Omicron variant.

Holohan letter

In a letter sent to Mr Donnelly on Thursday evening, the chief medical officer raised concerns around the latest Covid-19 advice.

Dr Holohan also urged the public not to hold parties on New Year's Eve or gatherings in their homes and to keep their social contacts low.

He advised people not to meet this weekend and keep contacts to a minimum in the days ahead.

"I know this is not the advice any one of us wants to hear, particularly in advance of New Year celebrations," he said.

“In the last 24 hours, 148 people with Covid-19 were either admitted to hospital or received a “detected” test result while in hospital."

"Hospitalisations at this level are not sustainable and are having a significant impact on our health service," he added.

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