Chief medical officer to inform health committee of ‘continuing need’ for Covid-19 measures

Dr Tony Holohan is set to advise politicians that there will be an ‘ongoing need’ to retain Covid-19 measures such as mask-wearing.

The chief medical officer is due to appear before the Oireachtas health committee on Wednesday.

In his opening statement, seen by the PA news agency, Dr Holohan will recommend the continued use of protective measures in schools and the wearing of masks in all settings where they are currently required.

The mask-wearing policy for school children is due to be revised at the end of February.

While Dr. Holohan will provide a largely positive update to the health committee, he also warns that “the pandemic is not over”, and that other variant concerns are likely to emerge after Omicron.

“In advising that social and economic restrictions could be lifted, the Nphet (National Public Health Emergency Team) stressed that the pandemic is not over and that with a significant level of infection nationwide, Covid- 19 still poses a public health risk,” Dr. Holohan will tell TDs and senators.

“In this regard, it will be necessary to maintain certain public health measures to reduce the risks.

“Protective measures must remain in place in primary and secondary schools, masks must continue to be worn in all currently regulated settings, and we must continue to encourage everyone to complete their primary and booster immunization programs.”

Dr. Holohon will also stress the importance of remaining vigilant in the face of the virus, with a risk of the emergence of new variants.

“The evolution of Sars-CoV-2 can be expected to continue, Omicron is unlikely to be the last variant of concern (VOC) we will face, and the global health risk public remains very high,” he told the committee.

“Therefore, we must remain vigilant and ensure our response is agile and flexible, with the ability to respond quickly and appropriately to any emerging threat.”

The importance of self-isolation for symptomatic cases will also be emphasized.

“It remains essential that if you have symptoms of Covid-19 that you self-isolate immediately,” Dr Holohan should say.

“Those identified as a close contact of a confirmed case should follow appropriate public health measures.”

However, Dr Holohan will also say that the current epidemiological situation is “largely positive” and that the country is in a “much improved situation”.

Key indicators such as the number of cases, hospital and intensive care admissions and the demand for tests are all falling.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, committee chairman Sean Crowe said: “The lifting of virtually all lockdown restrictions has given the country a welcome boost.

“As we reach the second anniversary of the arrival of Covid-19 on our shores, tomorrow is the opportune time to meet Nphet and hear the latest projections on the spread of the Omicron variant, the uptake of booster vaccines and the contingency plans for another variant.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is not over and the Omicron variant is unlikely to be the last variant of concern.

“It is crucial that we reflect on the lessons of the past two years in order to chart a better path forward for the health service.”