Mask off | 

Mandatory mask-wearing to be axed as Tony Holohan to propose that Nphet be disbanded

Nphet is to recommend that the mask mandate for shops, public transport and schools be scrapped from the end of this month.
Stock image. Picture posed.

Stock image. Picture posed.

Hugh O'Connell

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan is to propose that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) be disbanded alongside the ending of the last Covid 19 restrictions, including mandatory mask wearing.

It emerged this afternoon Nphet is to recommend that the mask mandate for shops, public transport and schools be scrapped from the end of this month.

A major scaling down of the State’s mass testing system for Covid-19 is also set to form part of recommendations from Dr Holohan to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on Thursday.

Dr Holohan will also make a proposal that Nphet be stood down.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan

Under proposals discussed by public health officials on Thursday morning, it is set to be recommended to Government that the legal requirement for masks to be worn in schools, in retail outlets and on public transport end from February 28.

The public health advice will continue to be that masks should also be worn in healthcare settings.

There would also be strong guidance for users of public transport to continue to wear masks on buses, trains and trams as they can be unavoidably busy, crowded settings.

Public health officials have also discussed a major scaling back of the testing system for Covid-19. The changes, which are still being finalised, would likely involve only older people and the medically vulnerable or people in contact with those categories being sent for PCR tests.

A person’s vaccination status - whether or not they have receive a booster vaccine - would also determine their eligibility for testing.

Most other people in younger age cohorts and who are in general good health would not be required to go for a PCR test and would instead to be advised to isolate or restrict their movements if symptomatic or a close contact of a positive case.

These changes could come into effect from the end of this month.

Dr Holohan told Nphet colleagues that it could be their last meeting and that he would not prejudge decisions by Mr Donnelly about the future management of the pandemic.

No date or time was set for the next meeting of the public health emergency team with senior public health officials of the view that it may have been the last meeting of Nphet just over two years after it was set up to respond to virus.

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