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Hope on horizon Nursing home visits and greater freedoms for vaccinated people considered as part of ‘vaccine bonus’

Nursing home visits will be looked at “specifically” this week, as even without the vaccine roll-out, community transmission has been falling steadily.

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Nursing home visits and greater freedoms for fully vaccinated people are being considered as part of a “vaccine bonus”.

It is likely that Nphet will this week agree to allow nursing home visits as the “vast majority” of nursing home residents and staff will be vaccinated.

Nphet will consider the issue on Thursday, with visits being resumed as soon as a week or 10 days later.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US released advice today, saying that fully vaccinated people can gather indoors together without masks or physical distancing.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said Nphet will also prepare similar advice for people who have been fully vaccinated as a “vaccine bonus” in its advice to Government ahead of April 5 when the current Level 5 lockdown will be reviewed.

“I’m hopeful over the next few weeks that we can start to tell people what the bonus from vaccination is and what it means, what vaccination means that you can or can’t do,” he told Independent.ie.

“But equally again, we have to balance that because not everyone in society will be vaccinated, vaccines aren’t 100pc protective.”

He also said there needs to be further data on how the vaccine affects transmissibility, although it is likely that it has “significant impact”.

Nursing home visits will be looked at “specifically” this week, as even without the vaccine roll-out, community transmission has been falling steadily.

“It’s appropriate even in that context, of looking at the issue of nursing home visitation given the really significant impact this pandemic has had on people living in those settings over the past year,” said Dr Glynn.

“Of course on top of that, we have vaccines, the vast majority of nursing homes now have been vaccinated so hopefully there will be a vaccine bonus for people over the next while.”

He said that while it may not be “normality”, the vaccine bonuses may prove to make life “a little bit easier”.

“It won’t be normality but something a little bit easier versus the really tough time that people have gone through in the past year.”

He was speaking as no deaths and 437 new cases were confirmed on Monday night.

Professor Philip Nolan said the reproductive R number has stabilised at 0.7 to 0.8, showing “sustained progress in suppressing transmission”.

A new Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) report published on Monday showed that the devastating third wave of Covid-19 began as early as November 22 before the country opened up in early December for Christmas.

Prof Nolan warned that we are in an “enormously precarious situation” in reopening so that the virus does not “bite us”.

“All pre-Christmas tells us is that when we get to March, April and May, we need to be immensely careful that the level that we have succeeded in suppressing the disease to, doesn't bite us in this space of a few very short weeks,” he said.

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