Mandatory Covid-19 vaccination is to be considered by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), while Government Ministers are understood to be anxious to ease current restrictions for the hospitality sector.
Meeting minutes from December 16th reveal the State’s public health team will consider mandatory vaccination, The Irish Times reports, with a new paper being prepared by the Department of Health on the legal and ethical aspects of such a move.
“It was noted that the Nphet will discuss the issue of mandatory vaccination at a later date and this discussion will be facilitated by a forthcoming paper from the Department of Health on the relevant ethical and legal considerations pertaining to this topic,” the minutes said.
The discussion comes after the Taoiseach said more than half of Covid patients in intensive care come from the five per cent of adults in Ireland who are unvaccinated.
Mandatory vaccination is under consideration in Germany and has been introduced in Italy for those over the age of 50.
It has also emerged that some members of Nphet did not agree with proposals for earlier closing times in the hospitality sector introduced last month.
Nphet originally proposed a 5pm closing time, but the Government introduced the 8pm closing time just before Christmas as the Omicron variant took hold in Ireland.
Ministers are now understood to be increasingly sceptical of the measures, favouring the removal of the 8pm limit on trading hours as well as the rule of allowing only six people to a table.
Minutes from the December 16th Nphet meeting show that a number of members of the public health team “voiced concern” over the earlier closing times, with some saying that such strict measures were “disproportionate by international comparison”.
Some members were of the opinion that the focus should be on reducing capacity within venues, rather than limiting trading hours.
In a letter to Government last week, chief medical officer Tony Holohan said Ireland had not yet reached the peak of the Omicron wave. Nphet recommended that all current measures – including the closing time for pubs and restaurants – remain in place until the end of January.
Although Ministers do not want to overrule Nphet advice, some believe the partial restrictions need to be re-evaluated. There is also support for an immediate reopening in February, if the wave has peaked by then, rather than a gradual unwinding of measures.
The Government is also awaiting advice from Nphet on shortening isolation times for close contacts of confirmed cases. The next meeting of the public health team is scheduled for January 20th, but it may meet this week to consider the isolation and quarantine times.