Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Tony Holohan has recommended that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) end it's work as the country moves to the next phase of the pandemic.
It comes as Nphet met on Thursday to discuss the end to mandatory mask wearing, which will come into effect on February 28th.
Following the meeting, Dr Holohan wrote to the Minister for Health to detail the current epidemiological situation and the new recommendations from Nphet.
The letter, which was published by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on Friday, said the country is now entering a transition phase of the pandemic response.
“This transition will entail a shift from the emergency type processes and measures of the last two years while also necessitating the maintenance of high levels of readiness for Covid-19 outbreaks and the emergence of new variants of concern, with significant strengthening of existing disease surveillance systems,” Dr Holohan said.
“As discussed at the Nphet today, as we move out of the emergency phase of the pandemic and given the significant mainstreaming of the Covid-19 response, the continuing impact of the vaccination programme, and the programme of work already completed by the Nphet, it is now deemed timely to conclude the work of the Nphet.”
“My Office, of course, remains available to provide any further advice and recommendations that may be of assistance to you and Government in relation to ongoing decision-making processes in respect of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The letter recommended that mandatory mask wearing in settings such as public transport, taxis, retail and hospitality can come to an end.
It also detailed that public health measures in early learning settings, school-aged childcare, primary and secondary schools, including physical distancing measures such as pods, and mask wearing could also end.
An end to PCR testing for most under-55s was also recommended.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly welcomed the recommendations and thanked Nphet "for their expertise, commitment and guidance through what has been such a difficult period".
“Their contribution cannot be overstated,” he added.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed that the Government would be accepting the CMO's recommendation to stand down Nphet.
The group, chaired by Dr Holohan, was established on January 2020 following reports from China about the new Covid-19 virus.
“Government is accepting the advice of Nphet in its entirety but we will need a range of advices still and over the next while to see how the system can withstand more variants or perhaps future diseases that may emerge,” he added.
Mr Martin rejected suggestions of any rivalry between Nphet and the Government, but said there were tensions.
“I wouldn’t describe it as rivalry at all. I have been very consistent, even when I was in opposition, that public health advice had to be central to our management of Covid-19 and it has been,” he added.
I want to pay tribute to Nphet and thank all the members of Nphet for the work they have done.
“Public health is important in terms of combating a pandemic of this kind. We saw other jurisdictions where public health advice was put to one side with very negative consequences for the people in such jurisdictions.
“Of course there will be tensions and different perspectives in terms of advices, but if you look at mortality rates in Ireland relative to others, I think Ireland has performed relatively well in relation to Covid-19.
“There are lessons to be learned but overall I thank Nphet for the work it did as part of a wider approach from Government to what has been a once-in-a-hundred-year kind of event.
“We think of all those who lost their life as a result of Covid-19 and on March 20 we will remember those and reflect on the impact of Covid.
“We have to make our system more durable, create a more permanent, stronger and durable public health system.”
-Additional reporting by PA