People under 55 who are “otherwise healthy” will not be offered a PCR when experiencing COVID symptoms.
The Government has now published the latest letter from the Chief Medical Officer to the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
It contains a range of recommendations, all of which the Taoiseach earlier confirmed would be accepted by Government.
It means that, from Monday February 28th, people will no longer need to wear masks in shops or on public transport.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 measures like mask-wearing and social distancing are to end in schools and childcare facilities.
Finally, the PCR testing system is to be stood down people over 55 who are "otherwise healthy" and NPHET is to be disbanded and replaced with a smaller monitoring body.
Mandatory mask requirements are being lifted in all settings except for healthcare.
Staff in public-facing jobs in businesses like bars, restaurants and hairdressers will also no longer have to wear them.
NPHET noted that people should still be advised to wear masks on public transport.
The health officials also said that public health measures in schools, early-learning settings and childcare can now be lifted – with no further need for masks or social distancing measures like pods.
They said infection prevention and control measures should continue in these settings – noting that ventilation, hygiene measures and advice to stay at home if symptomatic are important for limiting the spread of COVID and other viral infections.
They warned that some children will want to continue wearing masks and this should not be discouraged.
Meanwhile, NPHET said the PCR testing is no longer need for people under the age 55 who are otherwise healthy.
PCR testing is still recommended for:
- Those who have not had booster vaccination and are aged 55 years and older
- Those with a high-risk medical condition
- Those who are immunocompromised
- Those who live in the same household as a person who is immunocompromised
- Those who provide care or support for person they know to be immunocompromised
- Those who are pregnant
People who need a PCR test to support a claim for social welfare payments linked to absence from work will be able to access tests during a “transition period”.
Anyone who sits a positive antigen test should “consider this result definitive and self-isolate”.
Dr Holohan warned that the pandemic is not over and new variants that less susceptible to current vaccines could yet emerge.
It noted however that we are now entering a “transition phase of the pandemic”.
“Given the significant mainstreaming of the COVID-19 response, the continuing impact of the vaccination programme and the programme of work already completed by the NPHET, it is now deemed timely to conclude the work of the NPHET,” he said.
He said the Department of Heath will continue to closely monitor the disease and has put forward “a specific proposal on the appropriate structure and processes for this”.