Changes have been announced to the isolation rules for people with COVID-19 symptoms.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced the update following advice from the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan.
Under the rule change, people over the age of three and under 40 with symptoms will not be sent for a PCR test unless they have a positive antigen swab.
People in the affected age group are still asked to isolate and take "regular" antigen tests.
Those with repeated 'not detected' antigen tests should continue to self-isolate until 48 hours after their symptoms have resolved.
Symptomatic healthcare workers should continue to seek a PCR test, the advice says.
As per current advice, anyone with an underlying condition - which puts them at higher risk of severe disease, or anyone who has a clinical concern - should contact their GP.
All other symptomatic individuals (those aged 0-3 years and those aged older than 40 years) should seek a PCR test as soon as they display symptoms of COVID-19.
The advice remains that all those with symptoms should self-isolate.
However those who have been boosted, either through three vaccine doses or through a combination of primary vaccination and recent infection, and those who have not, can isolate as follows:
- Those aged 13 years and older who are at least seven days post booster vaccination or those who have completed their primary vaccination course and have had COVID-19 infection within the previous three months, should self-isolate for a minimum of seven days from commencement of symptoms
(or date of first positive test if asymptomatic) with exit after seven days - only if symptoms have substantially or fully resolved for the final two of those seven days
Those exiting isolation after seven days (from days eight to 10 post onset of symptoms) should:
- Limit, to the greatest extent possible, close contact with other people outside their household - especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
- Wear a face mask in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where they are in close contact with other people
- Take an antigen test before entering crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and prior to having close contact with other people from outside their household
- Avoid contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19
Work from home unless it is essential to attend in person
- Adhere to all other basic public health protective measures
All others aged 13 years and older who receive a positive PCR test result should continue to self-isolate for 10 days from commencement of symptoms, with exit after 10 days only if symptoms have substantially or fully resolved for the final two of those 10 days.
While current isolation requirements for young children (those aged 0-12 years) diagnosed with COVID-19 will remain in place.
Minister Donnelly says further distribution of antigen tests will begin from next Monday.
"Antigen testing for those aged 4-39 years, who do not have an underlying condition will be provided using the model currently in place within the HSE - home delivery from a central distribution point.
"The HSE has advised that arrangements to provide for distribution of antigen tests can be operationalised from next Monday January 3rd 2022.
"In the meantime, if antigen tests are available to you and you display symptoms of COVID-19, you can use antigen tests as directed as an alternative to PCR testing.
"As always, if you have any clinical concerns, at any time, please contact your GP", he says.
It comes as a record 20,554 further cases were confirmed in Ireland on Thursday.
Omicron now accounts for over 90% of PCR confirmed cases here.
While over 90% of people in hospital and intensive care with COVID-19 are there for the management of COVID-19.