No “significant change” to the current isolation period for Covid-19 is likely, according to the Tánaiste, as 10,839 new cases were logged on Friday.
5,750 cases were confirmed by PCR test, while 5,089 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.
Leo Varadkar said he did not anticipate any major changes to the seven-day isolation period after it was reported that chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan is set to consider whether the period for those who test positive should be reduced.
“He’ll come back to us with advice in the next couple of weeks. I don’t anticipate a significant change, quite frankly, because this is down to the science, and the incubation period of the virus is what it is, and the infectious period is what it is,” Mr Varadkar said.
Currently, HSE guidelines advise those who test positive for the virus to isolate for seven days and take extra care for a further three days.
‘Draconian’ mandatory masks
Mr Varadkar also ruled out a return to mandatory mask-wearing on Friday. Speaking at Dublin Zoo, he said that hospital data was showing some positive indicators.
“The pandemic is not over but the emergency phase of the pandemic is,” he said.
“Some reassurance again today, two days in a row we see the number of people in hospital with Covid has fallen.
“And the number in ICU is staying between 40 and 60, two-thirds of whom would be in ICU anyway.”
There were 1,472 patients with Covid-19 in the hospital system on Friday, with 59 people in ICU.
Mr Varadkar also indicated that delays to the launch of an advisory public health group to replace the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) were being caused by the need to finalise membership. He said that he expected an announcement on the new group next week.
“What we actually want in this new Covid advisory group is a mix – a mix of people who are, if you like, on the inside – HSE and Department of Health employees – but also some external people who can bring independence and rigour to the advisory group and they have to be asked.
“The delay is for a number of reasons. We have to agree to the terms of reference, we have to agree who’s going to be asked, they have to be asked and they have to be given a bit of time to respond.”
Earlier, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly ruled out the reintroduction of mandatory mask-wearing, saying there is no longer a need for the “draconian power” that was in force during the pandemic.
“There is still public health advice around the wearing of masks, however the regulations around people being fined and people being arrested, it was important we move away from that,” he said.