Coronavirus: Full work-from-home policy looms

Public health emergency team to meet and decide whether additional measures needed

A return to a full work-from-home policy is on the cards as public health officials mull further measures aimed at controlling rapidly rising Covid-19 cases.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) meets today to decide whether further public health measures are needed to tackle high infection rates.

A recommendation that employees generally work from home is “one of the considerations” that will be discussed at the meeting before a recommendation is made to Government, said State chief medical officer Tony Holohan.

Hospital Report

He noted, approvingly, advice from the United Kingdom’s Nphet equivalent that advising people to work from home is likely to have the most impact on the virus spreading this winter.


Speaking at the team’s weekly briefing yesterday, Dr Holohan also said the Department of Health had “taken a leadership step” by reinstating a working-from-home rule for its employees. Up to recently they could go to the office once a week.

Current Government policy proposes a “phased and staggered” return to the workplace, but Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has suggested a full return will not happen until next spring.

Health officials are not considering reimposing restrictions “at this point in time” despite the worsening situation, said Dr Holohan.

Hospitality and virus-pass rules

However, they are considering what additional measures are needed to augment the current approach. This is focused on encouraging people to reduce social contacts, accelerating rollout of boosters and ensuring compliance by the hospitality sector with virus-pass rules.

Dr Holohan said “not enough” people are heeding the team’s message on socialising, while surveys show one-third of restaurants, cafes and pubs are not checking passes.

While earlier models suggest cases should peak towards the end of this month, officials said there was “no guarantee” this would happen, given current trends. Infections are rising in all counties and in all age groups, but especially among 19- to 24-year-olds.

The exception is among over-85s, where a drop in incidence is being attributed to the administration of booster vaccines to this group.

With almost one in 100 of the population infected over the past fortnight (952 per 100,000) – and almost 3,000 more cases reported yesterday – officials said the risk of meeting an infectious person now is higher than at any point in the pandemic.*

*This article was amended on November 11th 2021 to correct a figure

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times