The relaxation of quarantine rules for those diagnosed with Covid-19 will be examined by public health officials this week, The Irish Times has learned.
Currently, people diagnosed with the disease must self-isolate until they have had no fever for five days and 14 days have elapsed since symptoms first developed.
However, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will this week discuss changing the 14-day rule to 10 days, based on international evidence compiled for it in a paper from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).
NPHET first discussed the issue last week, sources said, and decided to return to the matter again this week. The move would permit those without symptoms, or whose symptoms have abated, to return to wider society sooner, and is based on international evidence around how contagious someone is likely to be following infection.
These rules are distinct from the 14-day quarantine period for those travelling into the country, and would apply only to those who received a positive Covid-19 result and are in the wider community, rather than in hospital or a setting with vulnerable people.
A Department of Health spokeswoman confirmed “this issue is under consideration by NPHET and evidence is currently being reviewed. NPHET will discuss this matter again at its meeting next Thursday.”
It comes as infection rates among healthcare workers climb, with a threefold rise recorded during August. Nurses’ groups expressed concern about the scope of testing arrangements in hospitals and derogations to allow staff – deemed essential – who travel from abroad to return to work without restricting their movements for 14 days.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said 340 healthcare workers had contracted the disease since the beginning of July.
A further 138 cases of Covid-19, and no further deaths, were reported by NPHET on Sunday night. Of the new cases, 68 were in Dublin, with health sources indicating the progression of the disease will be closely monitored in the coming days after a total of 201 cases were reported in the county over the weekend.
The Department of Health will also this week consider NPHET’s recommendations for a plan to manage the pandemic in the medium term, which is set to be launched this month. Sources said NPHET’s recommendations included moving to a five-stage system of alerts, with three different levels of “orange” alert delineating local lockdowns. Depending on the severity of an outbreak, these could vary from measures to reduce congregations to significant restrictions on movement and economic activity. A numbered system may ultimately be preferred to a colour-coded approach, sources said.