Video: Government leaders to meet Nphet over new variant, antigen testing in schools

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Government leaders to meet Nphet over Omicron variant

Government leaders will meet with the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Monday as concern grows about the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and the Cabinet gets set to discuss a "circuit-breaker for children".

A number of ministers have cautioned that it is "far too early" to predict a return to lockdown, with one senior minister saying "we're not in that space".

On Tuesday, Cabinet is expected to agree on measures proposed by Nphet last week, with Christmas plays, communions, indoor play dates, sleepovers, and birthday parties to be forbidden for young children, in what has been described as a type of "circuit breaker".

This comes as Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said it was “likely” that the Omicron variant is already in Ireland.

Antigen testing begins in schools

A new system of antigen testing for asymptomatic close contacts of Covid-19 has begun in primary schools.

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Under the system, antigen tests will be made available to primary school children when a child in their ‘pod’ has a positive PCR test for the virus.

Antigen testing will be offered to a full class when two or more confirmed cases of Covid-19 occur in the class within a seven-day period and outside a single pod.

Meanwhile, the Government has dropped plans to provide cheaper antigen tests, Stephen Donnelly has said.

Consumer and business confidence falls

Consumer and business confidence has fallen due to the pandemic and concerns over Brexit.

The impact has seen Bank of Ireland's Economic Pulse drop to an eight-month low.

However, 75 per cent of households are expected to spend the same or more on buying Christmas presents this year.

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