New measures proscribing indoor gatherings for youngsters, and introducing facemasks for pupils aged 9 and over, are to be thought of by the Authorities on Friday.
Ministers are assembly amid concern over Covid-19 case numbers forward of the Christmas interval and the emergence of a brand new Covid variant spreading in South Africa that may make vaccines much less efficient and imperil efforts to combat the pandemic.
In an announcement on Thursday night time, the Division of Well being stated “No instances of this variant have been reported in Europe up to now however the Minister for Well being is deeply involved.”
It stated the division had, in latest days, been monitoring the emergence of the brand new variant B.1.1.529, and the World Well being Organisation (WHO) was assembly on Friday to additional assess its significance.
This variant has been recognized in plenty of international locations in southern Africa and in Hong Kong however the division famous “the WHO has not but designated this variant as a variant of concern”.
The UK has suspended fights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe from noon on Friday.
Present Division of Overseas Affairs journey steering “not advises in opposition to non-essential journey to South Africa based mostly on the present evaluation of Covid-19 dangers”.
A division spokesman stated there was no anticipated replace to the journey recommendation on Thursday night time.
Following a gathering on Thursday, the Nationwide Public Well being Emergency Workforce (Nphet) has advisable to the Authorities that indoor gatherings for youngsters needs to be averted for the subsequent fortnight. That is understood to incorporate occasions akin to nativity performs, sleepovers, birthday events and playdates.
In a letter to Minister for Well being Stephen Donnelly, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan can also be understood to have advisable that youngsters aged 9 and over ought to put on masks at school and different indoor settings, and on public transport, as is the case at the moment for these aged 13-plus.
Nphet can also be recommending extending the requirement for Covid passes to different indoor settings akin to gyms and hairdressers.
The measures shall be thought of by Mr Donnelly and Authorities colleagues as we speak.
It’s understood Nphet is not going to determine on recommending additional restrictions till subsequent week when it has extra knowledge on whether or not case numbers and hospital admissions are reaching a plateau, as some officers and ministers have prompt.
“This would be the extra critical assembly if numbers don’t come down,” stated a senior supply, suggesting a raft of extra extreme restrictions within the run-up to Christmas could be on the playing cards in that case.
In an announcement final night time, Dr Holohan stated the speed of Covid-19 infections remained “concerningly excessive” and urged folks to scale back their social contacts within the coming weeks.
He additionally stated that individuals needs to be “conscious of your contacts within the days after socialising, and particularly contemplate anybody you meet who could also be immuno-compromised or susceptible to Covid-19”.
He was talking because the HSE stepped up its planning on the way it will vaccinate youngsters between the ages of 5 and 11 after the EU’s drug regulator accredited use of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for that age group.
The European Medicines Company (EMA) has accredited the usage of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in youngsters aged between 5 and 11 at a decrease dose than for youngsters and adults.
The transfer paves the best way for Eire’s Nationwide Immunisation Advisory Committee to think about the rollout of the vaccine to youngsters right here. It’s understood the particular pictures for youngsters is not going to be delivered to Eire till round December twentieth, and it’s seen as unlikely that the vaccine shall be administered to major college youngsters right here earlier than the brand new 12 months.
Paul Reid, the chief government of the HSE, stated that it welcomed the EMA determination. “Our understanding is that the supply of these vaccines proper throughout Europe shall be in the direction of the top of December, so what we shall be doing within the meantime is mobilising a plan and the channels wherein we’d put together the vaccination of these youthful age teams,” he stated.