Increase in community transmission of Covid but no change in public health advice

HSE planning on new Covid vaccination booster in the autumn for older people and those who are vulnerable

Children who are unwell do not usually need to be tested for Covid-19 and do not have to be kept at home if they have a runny nose or a sneeze but are otherwise well, the HSE has said as people plan for the reopening of schools.

The chief medical officer, Dr Colm Henry, has said an increase in community transmission of Covid during recent weeks is linked to the arrival here of a new, more infectious variant of the virus, which has been given the name Eris, or EG.5.

“It’s a derivative of the known Omicron variant, and it is more transmissible and certainly driving community transmission in recent weeks,” Dr Henry said on RTÉ radio on Friday. “Not just here, but internationally, and accounting now for a significant proportion of increased hospital activity of Covid-19.”

There was no evidence that Eris was more deadly or produced more serious illness than other variants of the virus, the medical officer said. There has been no increase in pressure on the intensive care system.


In a statement, the HSE said there had been no change in advice for the public, who are being urged, as with any infectious disease, to take measures such as washing hands, covering our noses and mouths when sneezing, and staying home when sick.

“Unless you are in a specific risk group or setting, you will not be tested for Covid-19 unless a GP or healthcare worker advises you to have one,” the statement said.

“However, if you have any symptoms of Covid-19 and feel unwell, you should stay at home until 48 hours after your symptoms are mostly or fully gone, stay away from work, and avoid crowded indoor spaces. Children can return to school when they feel well and no longer have a high temperature.”

Dr Henry said a vaccine booster programme was being planned for the autumn, in conjunction with the flu vaccine programme, with the Covid shot being aimed at those aged 50 or older, individuals with a comprised immune system aged five and above, people with medical conditions that place them at a higher risk of a serious illness from Covid-19, and healthcare workers.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent