Trade Unions are calling for caution as Government considers relaxing close contact restrictions in the workplace.
Cabinet is expected to receive updated public health guidance on close contact isolation times when it meets tomorrow.
It comes after the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published new guidance allowing for shorter isolation periods where society and healthcare systems are under extreme pressure.
The guidance from the ECDC comes with a warning that it is non-evidence-based.
It is expected that NPHET will take the guidance into account when it makes its recommendations to Government.
Last night, Ireland announced it's one millionth confirmed COVID case of the pandemic – with half of those cases reported in the past two months alone.
As a result, several sectors have warned they are experiencing severe staffing issues.
This morning, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions called for a cautious approach to any change with spokesperson Dr Laura Bambrick warning that any change must be based on public health, not business.
“Any relaxation of close contacts rules for workers who are close contacts must be guided first and foremost by public health advice,” she said.
“Otherwise, what we will see happening is we will alleviate the short-term staffing issues but we will do nothing to reduce the infection rates.
“Decisions have to be evidence-based. They have to be guided by public health advice.”
She said the health service must take priority.
“Those numbers are continuing to rise; we haven’t reached the peak yet so we don’t know what the knock-on effects are going to be for our ICUs and our high-dependency needs,” she said.
“Our health workers and our health system have been under extraordinary pressure for the past two years and that is why we have to continue to be cautious at this point.”
It remains to be seen whether the high case numbers will translate into intensive care admissions, with 89 patients in ICU yesterday – up just two on the previous week.
While the HSE is experiencing severe staffing issues, there is a derogation in place allowing boosted healthcare workers to stop restricting their movements after five days.