Nphet decides not to recommend further Covid restrictions

Health and court services struggling with staff shortages as Omicron peak nears

No new restrictions are being contemplated by the Government after it received the latest letter from Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan on Thursday night.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) met on Thursday to review the epidemiological situation in the State and to consider whether any additional measures were needed amid record Covid-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant.

Senior sources said Nphet had recommended a continuance of current measures, likely until the end of the month.

Hospital Report

Sources have also said changes to the isolation period for close contacts are unlikely to be made until after the peak of the Omicron wave, expected next week.


Senior Government figures said further restrictions were now unlikely in the present wave of the virus. It is understood that the view of senior officials is that with the spread of the Omicron variant at such high levels, further restrictions would serve little purpose.

New record

A new record of 23,817 new cases of Covid-19 was confirmed in the State on Thursday. The Department of Health also said there were now 941 Covid-19 patients in the State's hospitals, 90 of them in ICU.

The health service remains under significant pressure, not just from the numbers of Covid patients, but by absences among its own staff due to the virus. At least 8,500 health service staff are currently off work due to Covid-19 infection or being a close contact, Health Service Executive chief executive Paul Reid said yesterday.

This amounts to one in eight staff in the health service, and includes 3,000 nurses and midwives and 1,500 staff working in patient care.

But he warned the true number could be twice this manual count, due to the acceleration of infections over the past week.

Mr Reid was speaking during a HSE media briefing on Thursday.

Jury trials

The effects of widespread infection are continuing to mount across society, beyond the health service. Criminal jury trials in the Dublin Circuit Court that were to take place next week have been postponed because of the high number of Covid cases and the number of people who have to self-isolate. Also the Court of Appeal, which had begun to hear more cases in court late last year, has announced that it is to revert to its practice of conducting almost all of its business remotely.

But there is hope around Government that emerging trends reported in other countries which have seen fewer people becoming seriously ill with Omicron will be repeated here and allow the health service to escape the worst-case scenarios feared before Christmas.

Meanwhile, the first updated Covid certificates were sent out last night to people who have received booster shots of the vaccine.

Mr Reid said there were “early strong indications” that the level of illness with the Omicron variant may not be as severe as with the Delta variant. The impact on ICU so far has been less severe, he said.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times