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new rules Caution urged as Government considers cutting isolation periods for boosted

It is understood the Government may reduce the self-isolation period from 10 to five days for some people who test positive for the virus

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Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Patricia King

Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Patricia King

Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Patricia King

The Government was warned to be cautious about relaxing close contact rules as it considers cutting isolation periods for the triple-jabbed.

Senior sources said the party leaders will today discuss easing rules for close contacts who have had booster shots, as surging infections send thousands of workers into isolation.

They said the current rules are seen as "overly onerous".

Some train services will be cancelled from today due to staffing issues, while restaurant bosses called for daily antigen tests to replace isolation to keep workers in.

An Irish Rail spokesperson said there will be a small number of cancellations from today until Friday.

They are mainly on Phoenix Park tunnel services between Grand Canal Dock and Newbridge and Heuston commuter routes.

The spokesperson said this was due to Covid-19 and close contact levels among staff.

"We apologise to customers affected," he said.

"However, even on these routes, the majority of services will operate, and all Intercity, Dart, other commuter routes are currently operating a full schedule. We are working across the network to minimise disruption to customers arising from the current unprecedented Covid-19 and close contact levels in Ireland."

The number of people claiming enhanced illness benefit almost doubled in the run-up to Christmas.

Soared

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On December 14, there were 4,518 people on the payment, available to those who contract the virus or close contacts. This soared to 8,237 on December 21.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Patricia King said any amendment to isolation restrictions for close contacts must be "guided first and foremost" by public health advice.

"We have to continue to be cautious in our approach to any moderation of these rules given the acceleration of cases and the unremitting strain on our health services and healthcare workforce," Ms King added.

It is understood the Government may reduce the self-isolation period from 10 to five days for some people who test positive for the virus.

This could mean those with booster vaccines who are close contacts would spend a shorter time in isolation.

Some employers want the rules eased after being hit by severe staffing shortages on top of restrictions over the busy festive season.

Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, said an estimated 30pc of businesses cannot open daily because of close-contact rules.

"Everything is starting to grind to a halt because close contact rules about isolation are essentially closing down hospitality businesses," Mr Cummins said.

"If someone has a confirmed case, everyone in close contact must isolate.

"I think they must change the rules on this. The US has brought it down to five days."

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