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28 Jan 2022

What are the latest Covid-19 guidelines for Ireland?

Covid-19 vaccination isolation Ireland

What are the latest Covid-19 guidelines for Ireland?

The Government has released details of the latest Covid-19 guidelines for Ireland covering isolation periods for different groups of people. 

The Government says the changes to the public health management of COVID-19 cases and close contacts are framed in light of available evidence, expert views and the international experience of COVID-19, including the recently published guidance from ECDC.

What do the updates to public health management of COVID-19 cases and close contacts mean for me?

I have symptoms of COVID-19

* Anyone with symptoms should immediately self-isolate and get tested. 
* Those aged 0-3 and over 39 years old and all healthcare workers should seek a PCR test.
* Everyone else (that is everyone aged 4-39) should use repeated antigen tests. If you have a positive antigen result, you should regard it as definitive and register it with the HSE – a PCR confirmation is not required. 
* If you have an underlying health condition, and you have symptoms of COVID-19, talk to your GP by phone.
* Regardless of negative results, anyone with symptoms should continue to self-isolate until 48 hours after symptoms have substantially or fully resolved. 
* All those aged 13 years and older with symptoms should use a well-fitted medical grade or FFP2 face mask, including when they may be at risk of coming into contact with others in their household.
* Children aged 9-12 years old with symptoms should wear a well fitted mask, including when they may be at risk of coming into contact with others in their household.

If I have a positive test result 

 * All those with a positive test result, PCR or antigen, should isolate for a minimum of 7 days.
* Those with symptoms should isolate for 7 days from the date of onset of symptoms.
* Those without symptoms should isolate for 7 days from the date of the first positive test (PCR or antigen).  
* Ending of self-isolation after seven days is on the basis that symptoms have substantially or fully resolved for the final two of those seven days. 
* All those aged 13 years and older with a positive result should use a well-fitted medical grade or FFP2 face mask for 10 days, including when they may be at risk of coming into contact with others in their household.
* Children aged 9-12 years old with a positive result should wear a well fitted mask for 10 days including when they may be at risk of coming into contact with others in their household.
* All positive cases should, for 10 days (including 7 days self-isolation)
- limit close contact with people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
- wear an appropriate face mask in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where they are in close contact with other people
- avoid contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19
- follow all public health protective measures.

I am a close contact, aged 13 and older, AND boosted 

 * All close contacts aged 13 and older who have had their booster vaccine should use a well-fitted medical grade or FFP2 face mask for 10 days. They should take regular antigen tests over 7 days, with the last test on day 7. There is no requirement to restrict movements (unless they become symptomatic), but they should fully adhere to protective measures (as below). 
* Those of any age who have recovered from COVID-19 following a positive PCR or antigen test carried out since 1st December 2021 are not required to restrict movements or test unless they become symptomatic. If they become symptomatic, they should immediately self-isolate, get tested and wear a mask as appropriate.
* It is prudent for all close contacts to adhere to protective measures for 10 days:
- limit close contact with people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
- wear an appropriate face mask in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where they are in close contact with other people
- take an antigen test before entering crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and prior to having close contact with other people from outside their household
- avoid contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19
- follow all public health protective measures.

I am a close contact, aged 13 and older, NOT boosted* 

* Close contacts aged 13 years and older who are not boosted  should use a well-fitted medical grade or FFP2 face mask for 10 days and restrict their movements for 7 days. They should also take regular antigen tests over 7 days, with the last test on day 7. They should also fully adhere to protective measures (as below).
* Boosters offers protection against serious illness from COVID-19. Please visit www.hse.ie and make arrangements to receive your third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
* Close contacts of any age who have recovered from COVID-19 following a positive PCR or antigen test carried out since 1st December 2021 are not required to restrict movements or test unless they become symptomatic. If they develop symptoms, they should immediately self-isolate, get tested and wear a mask as appropriate.
It is prudent for all close contacts to adhere to protective measures for 10 days (including the 7 days of restricted movements):
- limit close contact with people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
- wear an appropriate face mask in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where they are in close contact with other people
-take an antigen test before entering crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and prior to having close contact with other people from outside their household
- avoid contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19
- follow all public health protective measures.

* Boosted are those who are 7 days post their booster vaccine OR who have completed their primary vaccination course and had infection in the past 3 months

 I am a close contact, aged 13 and older, who has not had a full primary course of COVID-19 vaccine (I am not vaccinated/primary vaccination course not completed)

* Close contacts aged 13 years and older who have not had a primary course of COVID-19 vaccine should use a well-fitted medical grade or FFP2 face mask for 10 days and restrict their movements for 7 days. They should also take regular antigen tests over 7 days, with the last test on day 7 and should  fully adhere to protective measures (as below).
* Vaccination offers protection against serious illness from COVID-19. Please visit www.hse.ie and make arrangements to receive your dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
* Close contacts of any age who have recovered from COVID-19 following a positive PCR or antigen test carried out since 1st December 2021 are not required to restrict movements or test unless they become symptomatic. If they develop symptoms, they should immediately self-isolate, get tested and wear a mask as appropriate.
* It is prudent for all close contacts to adhere to protective measures for 10 days (including the 7 days of restricted movements):
- limit close contact with people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
- wear an appropriate face mask in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where they are in close contact with other people
-take an antigen test before entering crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and prior to having close contact with other people from outside their household
- avoid contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19
- follow all public health protective measures.

I am a close contact aged 12 or under, who is a household contact of a confirmed case

* Children aged 9-12 years old who are a household contact of a confirmed case should wear a well fitted mask for 10 days, including when they may be at risk of coming into contact with others in their household.  
* All those aged 12 and under who are household contacts of a confirmed case should restrict their movements for 7 days. 
* Children aged 4-12 should take regular antigen tests over 7 days, with the last test on day 7.
* Those age 0-3 should only take a PCR test if they are symptomatic. 
* Those of any age who have recovered from COVID-19 following a positive PCR or antigen test carried out since 1st December 2021 are not required to restrict movements or test unless they become symptomatic. If they develop symptoms, they should immediately self-isolate, get tested and wear a mask as appropriate.
It is prudent for all close contacts to adhere to protective measures for 10 days (including the 7 days of restricted movements)limit close contact with people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
wear an appropriate face mask in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where they are in close contact with other people
those aged 4-12 years should take an antigen test before entering crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and prior to having close contact with other people from outside their household
avoid contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19
follow all public health protective measures.

I am a close contact aged 12 or under, who is a non-household contact

 Children aged 9-12 years old who are close contacts of a case outside their household should wear a well fitted mask for 10 days, including when they may be at risk of coming into contact with others in their household.
No restriction of movement is necessary unless symptoms appear. 
No testing necessary unless symptoms appear.   
Asymptomatic children who are school/childcare pod contacts of cases will still be offered antigen testing.
Those of any age who have recovered from COVID-19 following a positive PCR or antigen test carried out since 1st December 2021 are not required to restrict movements and test unless they become symptomatic. If they develop symptoms, they should immediately self-isolate, get tested and wear a mask as appropriate.
It is prudent for all close contacts to adhere to protective measures for 10 dayslimit close contact with people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
wear an appropriate face mask/face covering in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where they are in close contact with other people
those aged 4-12 years should take an antigen test before entering crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and prior to having close contact with other people from outside their household
avoid contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19
follow all public health protective measures.

When do I have to self-isolate?* 

Anyone with symptoms should immediately self-isolate and get tested. Regardless of whether you have a negative result, anyone with symptoms should continue to self-isolate until 48 hours after symptoms have substantially or fully resolved.
All those with a positive test result, PCR or antigen, should isolate for a minimum of 7 days. Self-isolation should commence from date of onset of symptoms or, if asymptomatic, from date of first positive test result. They should only stop isolating at that time if their symptoms have substantially or fully resolved. 

When do I have to restrict my movements?*

A person who is a close contact, aged 13 years and older who has not had their immunity boosted should use a well-fitted medical grade or FFP2 face mask for 10 days and restrict their movements for 7 days. You should take regular antigen tests over 7 days, with the last test on day 7.
A person aged 12 or under who is a close contact of a confirmed case in their household should restrict their movements for 7 days. They should also wear a well-fitted mask for 10 days if they are aged 9-12 years old. Children aged 4-12 years who are close contacts of a confirmed case in their household should take regular antigen tests over 7 days, with the last test on day 7.
The period of restricted movements for close contacts applies from date of last contact with positive case if known or, if not, from date of notification as a contact.
It is important that all close contacts adhere to protective measures for 10 days (including the 7 days of restricted movements)limit close contact with people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
wear an appropriate face mask in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where they are in close contact with other people
take an antigen test before entering crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and prior to having close contact with other people from outside their household
avoid contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19
follow all public health protective measures.
  

* Close contacts of any age who have recovered from COVID-19 following a positive PCR or antigen test carried out since 1st December 2021 are not required to restrict movement and test unless they become symptomatic. If they develop symptoms, they should immediately self-isolate, get tested and wear a mask as appropriate.

Why has this advice changed?

Today’s changes to the public health management of COVID-19 cases and close contacts are framed in light of available evidence, expert views and the international experience of COVID-19, including the recently published guidance from ECDC. 
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is continuing to have a significant impact on all areas of our society and economy due to its increased growth advantage compared to Delta. There are some early, positive indicators however, that suggest infection from Omicron results in less severe illness and reduced requirement for care in hospital.
It is important to note that the changes announced cover a range of measures from self-isolation and restriction of movements to mask wearing and testing. Of note, while we are reducing the requirement to self-isolate and restrict movements for cases and close contacts respectively, we are strengthening guidance relating to mask wearing and reduced social contact for the full ten days following diagnosis or last known close contact.
These measures are intended to maintain our protection of public health while reducing pressure on the health service and enabling the continued operation of other economic and social sectors in society, including critical services and infrastructure.

I am a vulnerable person – do the changes apply to me/how do I protect myself

 The close contact rules apply to all people, including those who may be vulnerable. The best way people can continue to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19 is to Layer Up on the public health advice. 

Get your vaccine/booster
Wear the mask recommended for you
Maintain distance from others
Meet outside if possible
Avoid crowds
Open windows and avoid poorly ventilated spaces
Clean your hands
 

I have a vulnerable person in my household – do the close contact rules change in this instance?

The close contact rules apply to all people, including those who may be vulnerable. The best way people can continue to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19 is to Layer Up on the public health advice. 
 

Get your vaccine/booster
Wear the mask recommended for you
Maintain distance from others
Meet outside if possible
Avoid crowds
Open windows and avoid poorly ventilated spaces
Clean your hands
 

What does this mean for work? 

If you are experiencing issues with the updated changes you should speak to you employer. Current advice is that people should work from home unless it is necessary to attend in person.

What is a medical grade mask?

A medical grade mask is a three-layered, disposable mask. The masks are typically blue or white coloured, labelled as ‘medical’ and carry a CE marking.

These masks are widely available to purchase in retail outlets. 

What is a respirator/FFP2 mask?

A respirator /FFP2 mask is a multi-layered mask and has similar filtration values as a medical grade mask.

Respirators provide a tight fit around the wearer’s face and are particularly effective against aerosol transmission. If a respirator, or any face mask, is loose fitting or not worn correctly, it will not offer the same level of protection.

These masks are widely available to purchase in retail outlets. 

Will Government provide antigen tests for close contacts?

Yes, if you are deemed to be a close contact the HSE will provide you with free antigen tests. 

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