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'no nuclear button' Tony Holohan says there are no plans to bring in new restrictions or close schools before end of year

More than half of reported cases are now Omicron variant

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Dr Tony Holohan

Dr Tony Holohan

Dr Tony Holohan

Chief Medical Office Dr Tony Holohan has insisted Nphet is not planning to recommend new restrictions on schools and hospitality before the end of the year.

Dr Holohan sent a message to Taoiseach Micheál Martin this morning seeking to downplay reports Nphet were preparing to “press the nuclear button” on December 30 and advise that schools do not reopen in January and the full closure of pubs and restaurants.

The CMO denied the reports of potential lockdown measures being prepared by Nphet.

However, Dr Holohan said he could not rule out any further restrictions and will keep monitoring the situation closely over the coming weeks. He told the Taoiseach he was happy to be quoted.

The Taoiseach’s spokesperson said Mr Martin and Dr Holohan spoke this morning and insisted: “There are no plans for December 30 meeting and no nuclear buttons.”

“The leaders and Health Minister met public health on Tuesday, and they discussed the areas where restrictions might apply,” he said.

“On Friday, members of Nphet briefed members of Cabinet and no reference to lockdown plans and they said they’d meet again on January 6.

“As the Taoiseach said yesterday, there are no guarantees, and they will keep monitoring the situation, but they are heartened with booster progress,” he added.

The Irish Mail on Sunday reported Nphet warned the Government that schools may not be able to open in January if Omicron cases surge. It was also reported there is likely to be a full closure of pubs and restaurants along with tighter restrictions on home visits if transmission increases drastically in the coming weeks.

On Friday, the Government introduced an 8pm curfew on pubs and restaurants. New restrictions on live and sport events were also introduced along with a new rules for close contacts for confirmed cases of Covid.

Anyone who is fully vaccinated, including a booster shot, will have to restrict their movements for five days and take three antigen tests if they are a close contact. Anyone who has not received a booster must restrict movements for ten days.

It comes as the Health Protection Surveillance Centre has been notified of 5,124 cases of Covid-19 today.

As of 8am today, 436 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 107 were in ICU.

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It is now estimated that approximately 52pc of reported cases are due to the Omicron variant.

Dr Holohan said; “It has taken less than two weeks for Omicron to become the dominant strain of Covid-19 in Ireland, revealing just how transmissible this variant is.

“We have slowed transmission of this disease in the past using our basic measures and responding immediately if symptomatic – it is extremely important we do everything we can to flatten the curve of this wave now to prevent unnecessary deaths, risk to the vulnerable and to protect our health service.

“I urge anyone eligible for a booster to available of it at the earliest opportunity.

“If the majority of us can now reduce our social contact, meet others outdoors, work from home unless absolutely necessary, ensure the appropriate use of face masks, avoid crowds and keep indoors well ventilated,” he urged.

“Very importantly if you have any Covid-19 symptoms self-isolate immediately and arrange a PCR test, if you are a close contact of a confirmed case please restrict your movements.”

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