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testing times Dr Tony Holohan says schools are still set to re-open next week despite Omicron surge

'We're doing everything we can... to protect the most important public services that we have'

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Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan

Dr Tony Holohan has said schools are scheduled to re-open next week, despite the fact that the number of people being hospitalised every day is now "exceeding" 100. 

The Chief Medical Officer also told Morning Ireland that “it should be easier to access a PCR test”, when asked about widespread concerns over difficulties in accessing a test.

"At the moment schools are scheduled to re-open next week,” he told Audrey Carville.

"We keep that whole situation under review, but as things stand at the moment that's our current advice.

"We're doing everything we can... to protect the most important public services that we have."

Dr Holohan also said that this Christmas period "is not the same" as last year due to vaccines and that without them, the current Covid-19 case numbers would lead to "very significant" numbers being hospitalised & dying.

"The vaccines work, the boosters work," he said.

He added that if there were no “constraints" on testing, the system would have "picked up in excess of 30,000 cases" on Thursday.

"If we had these levels of infection without that protection [vaccines and boosters], then we would see many, many more people in hospital,” he said.

Asked why NPHET and Government has reversed its advice on antigen testing in recent days, he explained: "We need to ensure we prioritise those people" who are most in need of PCR tests.

Dr Holohan said the "value" of antigen tests is clear in "outbreak" situations, and when asked about widespread concerns over difficulties in accessing PCR tests, replied: "It should be easier to access a PCR test."

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The Omicron variant is "very many times" more infectious than the Delta variant, he pointed out, adding that people should take the view that if anyone in their household has Omicron, then everyone in the household should consider themselves to be potentially infected.

Dr Holohan: "The test [antigen test] doesn't protect you - the key action is isolation,” he said.

“It's not the one-off antigen test people can rely on. It's to restrict their movements... and the series of antigen tests. It's important that people hear that message."

Dr Holohan confirmed "it may well be the case" that if the Omicron wave continues to surge then further changes to antigen tests advice may need to take place.

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