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vax a bunch As HSE scales down mass free testing people will have to pay around €90 for PCR tests

Most people with symptoms will now have to go private if they want a Covid-19 test

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there will be no legal requirement to wear a mask any more in any setting. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there will be no legal requirement to wear a mask any more in any setting. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there will be no legal requirement to wear a mask any more in any setting. Photo: Gareth Chaney

The majority of people with symptoms who want a PCR Covid-19 test will have to pay around €90 for it privately as the HSE starts to axe most of its mass free testing services.

It follows the Cabinet’s decision yesterday to no longer offer free PCR tests to healthy members of the public under 55 or those who are boosted and do not fall into a category such as people with a high risk medical condition, those living with a vulnerable person or a pregnant woman.

The Cabinet decided to scrap most Covid curbs, including mandatory face masks, except in healthcare settings, end routine testing and tracing and no longer require close contacts to stay at home unless symptomatic.

People with a positive test should self-isolate for seven days.

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Schoolchildren will no longer be obliged to wear masks unless they wish to. Stock image

Schoolchildren will no longer be obliged to wear masks unless they wish to. Stock image

Schoolchildren will no longer be obliged to wear masks unless they wish to. Stock image


UCD virologist Gerald Barry said yesterday the decisions around testing are far reaching.

He said for most people with symptoms they “don’t have to test themselves any more” and the advice is to isolate until you feel better for two days and then “you are good to go”.

Potentially, it means people infected are only at home for three to four days, he said.

It allows asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic or mildly symptomatic people to move around society.

“If you combine that with the lifting of mandatory face masks you are basically saying there is a large drop in concern about community transmission of the virus,” Mr Barry said.

He was surprised there was no reference to home antigen testing for the most part.

“It has largely shifted to treating the virus like any other respiratory virus, but this is more transmissible than any other virus we have encountered.”

He said the advice that unvaccinated children from a household where there is a case of Covid-19 should stay at home from school appears to have been dropped, which could have implications for spread. The lifting of rules around face masks comes into effect from Monday.

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Schoolchildren will no longer be obliged to wear them unless they wish to.

Pods and physical distancing will also end in the classroom.

Earlier, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: “There will be no legal requirement to wear a mask any more in any setting, but it will still be advised in public transport and also in health care settings.”

There are people who may wish to continue to wear a mask, Mr Varadkar said, such as people who have underlying conditions, are immunocompromised or are vulnerable.

“They wish to choose to do so, and of course, there is no reason why they should not.”

Some measures will remain in place, however, including recommendations around hygiene, ventilation and ad- vice that people should stay home if they are sick.

For people who have confirmed Covid infection through a positive antigen test or PCR test, the rules stay the same.

That is, “to isolate, to stay in your room for seven days. And on days eight, nine and 10 to wear a mask. That doesn’t change,” Mr Varadkar said.

New systems are expected to be put in place to track the virus as fewer people are allowed free PCR tests.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said last night it looked at the Omicron offshoot BA.2, which is gaining ground in countries such as Ireland. It found it was not more severe and there is strong protection from re-infection if a person catches the original version.

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