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Restrictions latest Nphet give green light to further relax Covid measures and ease movement rules

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nepht) also opted not to make the wearing of masks by pupils in primary schools mandatory.

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The go ahead to the phased return to the workplace, the removal of restrictions on outdoor group activities and easing of Covid-19 rules around indoor sports, arts and culture events has been given the green light.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nepht) also opted not to make the wearing of masks by pupils in primary schools mandatory.

However, they are to ease the rules around testing and the length of time close contacts of a confirmed case have to restrict their movements.

This change in current policy which makes it mandatory for a child who is a close contact of a confirmed case of Covid-19 in school to be absent for ten to fourteen days is expected to come into effect in the coming weeks.

The go ahead will depend on the pattern of virus spread in schools.

Around 1,200 children a day are deemed closed contacts and must restrict movements.

Currently around 10,000 children are missing school attendance as a result.

It will also have implications for adults who are close contacts of a confirmed case.

The proposals were given the go ahead at a meeting of the Nphet today.

Anyone who is a close contact and symptomatic is likely to have to continue to go for a test.

Nphet also examined a report from Hiqa on the wearing of face masks by primary school children.

The review did not recommend this practice on various grounds including its potential impact on learning and communication in the classroom.

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Nepht agreed not to introduce face masks in primary school.

Nepht also considered an report on antigen testing and protocols for how this rapid form of testing could be applied in areas such as colleges and in some workplaces.

A group chaired by infectious disease consultant Prof Mary Horgan set out how the tests could be applied.

It will be a matter for individual settings on whether to use the tests.

Dr Holohan has previously warned about their inappropriate use because they are not as reliable as PCR tests.

However, the reports sets out how they could be applied and reduce the odds of someone who is infectious spreading the virus.

The roll out of the vaccines now means that 85.3pc of the population over 12 are now fully vaccinated.

The major lifting of restrictions is expected to go ahead at the end of next month.

However, mask wearing on public transport and in shops is expected to remain.

The seven day moving average yesterday was 1,355 , down from 1,458 a week ago.

Earlier today there were 290 Covid-19 patients in hospital , a fall of two from Wednesday. However there are 67 in intensive care , an increase of two patients.

Nphet makes its recommendations and forwards them to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to decide if they get the green light.

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