Video: Close contact changes, Omicron tearing through Europe, Hutch argues against SCC trial

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Close contact rules

The Cabinet is expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss easing the rules for close contacts of confirmed cases of Covid-19.

The meeting follows similar moves by countries across Europe, including the UK, to reduce the number of days close contacts must isolate after coming into contact with the virus.

The considerations are being made amid huge levels of staff absenteeism caused by workers having to restrict their movements after testing positive for the virus or being identified as a close contact.

CMO advice

Chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Tony Holohan is due to issue advice to the Government after the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) met to consider their advice on a number of topics, including face masks and close contacts rules.

Dr Holohan has also warned that up to 500,000 people in the State were likely to have been infected with the virus last week, however, PCR testing capacity limits and asymptomatic cases meant a high portion were likely missed.

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His comments come as the World Health Organisation (WHO) forecast over half of all Europeans will be infected with the virus in the next six to eight weeks due to the spread of the Omicron variant.

Leaving Cert debate

The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union has insisted exams "cannot go ahead as planned", despite a leading teachers’ union, the TUI, being of the view that “traditional” exams must take place in 2022.

Martin Marjoram of the TUI said there is a "certain expectation starting to develop that possibly the examinations will not have to be sat", warning it was leading to "some disengagement" among students which he said was "potentially damaging".

Speaking this morning, the deputy president of NUI Galway said he too was in favour of the traditional written exams, describing the hybrid system as "intensely unfair" and "deeply problematic".

Monk trial

Two men, including Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch, have claimed they should not be tried before the non-jury Special Criminal Court (SCC) on charges of murder arising out of the Regency Hotel attack in 2016.

Hutch (58), who was extradited from Spain, and former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall (44), of Navan Road, Dublin, are both charged with the murder of David Byrne (33) at the hotel in Whitehall, Dublin on February 5th, 2016.

They are both seeking declarations from the High Court that their trials before the SCC will be unlawful and in breach of their fundamental rights because the SCC is operating as a permanent court when it was only set up on a temporary basis nearly 50 years ago.

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