Nphet recommends no new Covid restrictions amid record-breaking cases

A record 23,817 cases were confirmed this evening, the highest in Ireland since the pandemic began
Nphet recommends no new Covid restrictions amid record-breaking cases

The National Public Health Emergency Team has recommended that the Government impose no new Covid-19 restrictions, as a record 23,817 cases were confirmed on Thursday.

The State’s public health team met on Thursday to review the epidemiological situation in the State and to consider whether any additional measures were needed as Ireland experiences unprecedented infection rates due to the Omicron variant.

Two sources told The Irish Times that the team has recommended a continuance of current measures, potentially until the end of the month.

Sources have also said changes to the isolation period for close contacts may not be made until after the peak of the Omicron wave.

Today's daily case tally is the highest recorded in Ireland since the pandemic began, with a previous high of 23,281 cases recorded less than a week ago on January 1st.

It comes as the Department of Health confirmed there are no current plans to require a vaccine booster to access indoor dining, after it was announced on Thursday that updated Digital Covid Certs will be sent via email to people who have had their booster shots.

The new certs are being issued as the European Union will be introducing new rules on travel from February 1st. Under the rules, current certs will be valid for only nine months after completing the primary two-dose course.

Ireland's Department of Health said updated certs will begin to arrive by email from this afternoon, with the process expected to take a number of days.

It added that “validity periods on vaccination certificates for domestic use (such as access to indoor dining etc) are not currently planned by the Government.”

However, it is expected that updated Covid certs with proof of a booster shot will be needed at a later date to gain access to hospitality, following comments made by the Taoiseach.

Later date

Micheál Martin said he believed updated certs will be required “in the fullness of time... but not shorter than that,” according to The Irish Times.

Mr Martin said the HSE is now working on including the booster within the vaccine record and cert.

“Government decisions will have to be taken then in terms of the policy implication of that, but it is very clear to us that the benefits of the booster are very significant right now in preventing infection but above all in preventing severe illness from Omicron,” Mr Martin said.

The Taoiseach also said that levels of Covid-19 infection remain "unprecedented" in Ireland and the next 10 days will provide further evidence on the severity of illness arising from the Omicron variant.

Officials have been told that hundreds of thousands of cases of Omicron have not been captured in official Covid-19 figures since early December.

It is understood that at least 380,000 Omicron cases, and possibly as many as 500,000, have not been officially recorded.

This comes as the PCR testing system is under major pressure due to the rise in people with Covid-19 symptoms or positive antigen tests looking to book an appointment.

High rates of test positivity, which have been around 50 per cent, are seen as an indicator that many cases are going undetected, meaning the level of infection is higher than what the testing system can accommodate.

Although the number of people in hospital with the virus continues to rise, politicians have said the fact that the number of people in intensive care remains relatively stable is a positive sign.

As of 8am this morning, there were 941 patients hospitalised with the virus, with 90 being treated in intensive care.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is meeting on Thursday to discuss the latest on the situation. However, senior ministers have indicated that no new restrictions are expected to be recommended.

Health officials are expected to discuss a possible relaxation of the rules for close contacts, given the impact they are having on workplaces.

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