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Covid-19 Ireland: Stephen Donnelly announces new self-isolating rules as cases soar

Stephen Donnelly has announced new rules for people for those in self-isolation.

These updates come after the huge demand for PCR tests and the very large volumes of disease now being experienced.

The new rules will ensure best use of available testing capacity to ensure rapid identification of Covid-19 infection.

Minister Donnelly said: “Antigen testing for those aged 4-39 years, who do not have an underlying condition will be provided using the model currently in place within the HSE – home delivery from a central distribution point.

“The HSE has advised that arrangements to provide for distribution of antigen tests can be operationalised from next Monday 3 January 2022.

“In the meantime, if antigen tests are available to you and you display symptoms of Covid, you can use antigen tests as directed as an alternative to PCR testing. As always, if you have any clinical concerns, at any time, please contact your GP.”

Mr Donnelly said that the disease incidence has continued to rapidly increase in Ireland, with recent daily case counts substantially exceeding the highest previously reported in the pandemic to date.

“The 14-day incidence is now estimated at over 2,300 per 100,000 population. We are seeing levels of new daily cases in hospitals that we have not seen since last January,” he added.

“The latest data on S-gene target failure data indicates that approximately 92% of cases are due to the Omicron variant.

“While our booster rollout programme is going extremely well, the extent to which the epidemic is continuing to accelerate means that there is still significant concern regarding the likely impact of such high case counts on our health services.

“Remember to layer up on all of the protective measures available to us including mask wearing, good ventilation, antigen testing and adherence to other public health guidance.”

Current advice is that all those with symptoms should self-isolate and seek a PCR test, but now:

  • Symptomatic individuals aged 4-39 years should self-isolate immediately and undertake regular antigen tests rather than booking a PCR test.

  • Anyone with an antigen test which detects Covid-19 should seek a PCR test.

  • Those with repeated ‘not detected’ antigen tests should continue to self-isolate until 48 hours after their symptoms have resolved.

  • Symptomatic healthcare workers should continue to seek a PCR test.

  • Anyone with an underlying condition should contact their GP.

  • All other symptomatic individuals (those aged 0-3 years and those aged older than 40 years) should seek a PCR test as soon as they display symptoms.

Current guidance in relation to self-isolation advises that adults who receive a positive PCR test result should self-isolate for 10 days from when they start to experience symptoms, but now those aged 13 years and older, should self-isolate for a minimum of seven days.

Those exiting isolation after seven days (from days 8 to 10 post onset of symptoms) should:

  • Limit to the greatest extent possible close contact with other people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces

  • Wear a face mask in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where they are in close contact with other people

  • Take an antigen test before entering crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and prior to having close contact with other people from outside their household

  • Avoid contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with the virus.

  • Work from home unless it is essential to attend in person.

  • Adhere to all other basic public health protective measures.

All others aged 13 years and older who receive a positive PCR test result should continue to self-isolate for 10 days from beginning of symptoms.

The Department of Health and the HSE will now work together to put these updates in place.

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