NPHET meets to discuss easing COVID restrictions

Health officials will make recommendations ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Friday
Sean Defoe
Sean Defoe

06.35 20 Jan 2022

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NPHET meets to discuss easing...

NPHET meets to discuss easing COVID restrictions

Sean Defoe
Sean Defoe

06.35 20 Jan 2022

Share this article

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will meet on Thursday to discuss easing restrictions over the next few weeks.

Health officials will make recommendations to the Government ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Friday.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told a meeting of his parliamentary party on Wednesday night the country is now well beyond the peak of the Omicron wave, and things were not as bad as had been feared.


He said he plans to make an announcement Friday on restrictions for the short and medium-term.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he does not want to see restrictions lifted in "one fell swoop".

He told The Hard Shoulder: "I don’t think we should remove all restrictions in one fell swoop.

"I would like to see us do it maybe in two or three phases. In case things go off, it does make sense to me to do it in phases."

Mr Varadkar earlier told his parliamentary party he wanted to set a March 31st deadline for the removal of almost all legal restrictions.

On this, he said: "The reason I mentioned March 31st as the objective, the target I would like us to set to have almost all legal restrictions removed, is that the emergency legislation for COVID passes, masks and closing businesses expires on March 31st and I wouldn’t like us to have to renew it.

"But if it can be done before then, I would be happy with that."

While politicians are not under any illusions the pandemic is over, they are beginning to think the worst may be behind - at least until a new variant emerges.

With that in mind they expect a quick unwinding of restrictions over the next few weeks, with hopes almost all measures will be gone before the now four-day St Patrick's Weekend.

However, NPHET has still to have its say.

Health officials will meet to set out what measures they believe can be eased and the pace at which it should be done.

It is expected they will give a cautious go ahead to re-opening, with full details of the plan to be sent to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on Thursday night.

While one immunology professor says restrictions should start to loosen immediately, if NPHET recommends it.

Liam Fanning told Newstalk on Wednesday the Government shouldn't wait if they get the green light.

"Now is the time to move - as soon as NPHET make their decision on Thursday, whatever it is, on Friday Government should meet and have those restrictions gone by the weekend.

"We have a wall of immunity around this country protecting us, and we're at the best point to be protected to do the most we can.

"In some sense the Government have become too comfortable with implementing restrictions too quickly."

'The best point to loosen restrictions'

And he believes a wider discussions should take place around mask wearing.

"We have to have a discussion around maybe dropping the masks fairly quickly once the numbers drop below 100 per 100,000 thousand, I think the masks should be gone.

"Maybe even a consideration of that in schools as well".

Prof Fanning also said some elements, such as masks on public transport, could be left to individuals.

"Make it a personal choice - we have to start engaging with individuals to kind of make it their own choice whether they wear a mask or not.

"We have 93%+ double vaccinated, we have several million people infected as a result of Omicron and previous variants.

"So we are at the best point, immunologically speaking, to start loosening all the restrictions and getting people back to living".

Additional reporting: Jack Quann

Main image: Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, are seen at a Department of Health briefing in April 2020. Picture by: Sasko Lazarov/

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Cabinet Meeting Covid Restrictions Easing COVID Restrictions Liam Fanning Micheál Martin NPHET St Patrick's Weekend Stephen Donnelly

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