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27 Jan 2022

Government approves additional measures to help reduce spread of Covid-19 among children, including mask wearing

Certified “negative/not-detected” Covid test result for arrivals into the State

Government approves additional measures to help reduce  spread of Covid-19 among children, including mask wearing

With the Covid-19 situation in Ireland remaining uncertain and of concern, combined with the added uncertainty due to the potential impact of the Omicron variant, the government have introduced new regulations for children aged nine and over regarding the wearing of face masks in public places, most notably while attending school.

There will be a review on these rules in mid February, 2022. 

The Government say that incidence of the virus is relatively stable but remains at high levels across all age groups and is continuing to have a significant and sustained impact across all aspects of the health service.

Parents have also been asked to reduce socialisation indoors in respect of children aged 12 and younger over the next two weeks.

New regulations for passengers entering and leaving the country are also to come into force.

"While there is some evidence of a move in the right direction in terms of people reducing their close contacts and cancelling future plans for social interaction, it is not yet at the level required in order to result in a significant reduction in the rate of transmission of Covid-19. 

"This means that we need to remain vigilant and do all we can to reduce the transmission of Covid-19," they say.

Last evening, following public health advice, Government has agreed that:

Parents should aim to reduce socialisation indoors in respect of children aged 12 and younger over the next two weeks. 
Parents know their children best and know the activities / experiences that matter most to them. Therefore, parents are being asked to prioritise their children’s activities - minimising indoor community gatherings and indoor mixed household gatherings; reducing the risk of exposure to the virus by opting for outdoor activities instead of indoor; and reducing the number of children involved in any particular activity.

On a temporary basis, subject to review in mid-February 2022, the wearing of face masks/coverings will be recommended for children, aged 9 years and over on public transport, in retail and other indoor public settings as currently required for those aged 13 and over, with exemptions as appropriate; and
in third class and above in primary school (guidance will issue to schools from the Department of Education on this).
 

International travel

With effect from 00.01am on Friday December 3 2021, persons arriving into the State from overseas who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 will be required also to have a certified[i] “negative/not-detected” test result (i.e. not self-administered), from an antigen test taken no more than 48 hours before arrival or a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival[ii].  It is envisaged that current exemptions from testing (e.g. children aged 11 and under) would continue to apply, in line with existing regulations.
Air and sea carriers will be required to carry out pre-boarding checks for compliance, supplemented by BMU/GNIB spot-checks on arrivals at ports and airports.


This measure will apply for a minimum period of two weeks, and kept under review with a view to removal as soon as possible thereafter taking account of the overall epidemiological situation.
 

Mandatory Hotel Quarantine

Government agreed that the Health (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2021 will be initiated in the Dáil or the Seanad upon finalisation of the text.

 

Antigen testing

Public health advice recognises the potential value of more general use of antigen tests in particular situations if you do not have symptoms of Covid-19.[iii]

 

Engagement has taken place with leading retailers and wholesalers on the availability of affordable antigen tests through the retail sector.  Early indications are that prices reductions have already been brought forward by a number of large retailers in recent days. The pricing and availability of antigen tests continue to be closely monitored, with a focus on ensuring their continued availability to the public at affordable prices.

 

Key messages

The public health advice is that the future trajectory remains uncertain. The three steps everyone can take to help reduce the spread of the virus are:

 

Get vaccinated and get your booster when you are called.
If you have symptoms of Covid-19, get a PCR test, self-isolate until you get your result and then follow the public health advice.
In every situation, reduce your risk of catching / transmitting Covid-19 over the coming weeks by:
prioritising close friends and family and being conscious of vulnerable people (including yourself) in your circle;
meeting outdoors where possible and opening windows and doors to let fresh air in if meeting indoors;
wearing a mask, keeping your distance and cleaning your hands frequently; and
using antigen tests appropriately.

 

[i] In the case of antigen testing, the test cannot be self-administered.  It must be taken and certified by an established operator in the relevant country.
[ii] Anyone who does not have a Digital Covid Certificate based on vaccination or recovery or other appropriate valid proof of vaccination or recovery will continue to be required to take a pre-departure PCR test.
[iii] Use an antigen test if you have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case and you have no symptoms and you are fully vaccinated.

 

Use an antigen test twice a week if you are regularly in high-risk environments and you have no symptoms.

 

You will be offered free antigen tests for your child in primary school if:

-               There is a confirmed case in their pod

-               There are 2 or more confirmed cases in their class in different pods within a 7-day period.

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