“Cabinet expected to receive advice on close contacts”

The Cabinet is expected to receive advice from public health experts on Wednesday that will examine the possibility of easing restrictions for close contacts.

If the rules are changed it would be followed by engagement with employers and an updated communications campaign would also commence.

Earlier, the Taoiseach said that the Government understood the pressures on many parts of the economy as a result of the current rules.

Micheál Martin said that the public health authorities would interrogate the latest guidance from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

That guidance allowed for shorter quarantine periods in the case of high and extreme pressure on healthcare systems and society.

There is now an expectation politically that this guidance will form the basis of advice that will go to Government.

The Taoiseach also said he is confident that further restrictions will not be necessary to curb high case numbers in the current Covid wave, as he said he favoured the system of voluntary vaccination.

Speaking this afternoon in Cork, Mr Martin said that while the Omicron wave of the virus had not yet peaked, he was satisfied that further restrictions can be avoided. He said he expected case numbers to peak within a week or a fortnight.

Asked if he was confident further restrictions could be avoided, Mr Martin said: “I am. That said, we want to give it another week or two. We haven’t peaked yet – Covid has had many twists and turns, but I am confident that if we maintain the same focus we can get through this wave.”

He also said the system of voluntary vaccination would be maintained.

He was responding to reports that the National Public Health Emergency Team will consider mandatory vaccination, and that the Department of Health is to prepare a paper on the issue.