Soaring cases | 

Key meetings this week will set tone for how main players tackle virus in months ahead

Case numbers continue to break records - here's how a series of significant meetings will shape the weeks ahead for Ireland
Dr Tony Holohan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Philip Ryan

The new year is upon us and as we begin 2022 the Covid-19 pandemic remains the main item on the political agenda.

A series of meetings in the coming days will decide how we live with the Omicron variant in the weeks ahead as new case numbers continue to break records.

The Leaders

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan will meet for the first time this year today to discuss the ongoing situation with the virus.

All three are getting regular updates from chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, HSE chief executive Paul Reid and Vaccine Taskforce chair Prof Brian MacCraith on the latest data relating to transmission, hospitalisations and vaccines.

The leaders are likely to discuss changes to rules surrounding close contacts and isolation. They will also look at how antigen test results will be recorded by the HSE.

There is nothing scheduled as of yet but they may get a formal update from senior public health experts such as Dr Holohan.

Education sector

Education Minister Norma Foley will today meet with teachers' unions and school board of management bodies to discuss the return to classes later this week.

The firm view of the Government is that schools should reopen as planned on Thursday.

The minister will set out measures to ensure students can return safely to classrooms.

The Cabinet

Cabinet will meet tomorrow. The Taoiseach and ministers are expected to agree changes to how long people must restrict their movements if they get a positive diagnosis or are deemed a close contact.

The Government has been looking to America, where the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) reduced the isolation period for people who test positive from 10 days to five.

The CDC advised that close-contact isolation rules could be dropped for fully boosted people with no symptoms as long as they wear a mask.

It is expected Cabinet will make changes to isolation rules without any formal recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Nphet

Dr Holohan and his team will meet on Thursday to review the state of play with Covid transmission and the impact it is having on the health service.

There is apprehension in Government around what Nphet may recommend but ministers hope there will be no need to impose severe restrictions over the coming weeks.

The Government is looking at the significant drop in Omicron cases in South Africa and Britain in the hope something similar will happen here.

Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19

Depending on what Nphet recommends on Thursday, there may be a need for the powerful Cabinet sub-committee to meet on Friday to examine the advice.

This could even be followed by a full Cabinet meeting but all depends on what Nphet recommends.

Government leaders could also decide to hold off making decisions until the next week. Much depends on the spread of the virus.


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