Health Minister Stephen Donnelly confirms change to Covid advice after possible Irish Omicron cases

Anyone living with someone who has returned to Ireland from one of the seven countries in South Africa will have to stay at home for 10 days, according to updated advice from the government.

Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly provided an update to reporters on his way to a meeting with the three coalition leaders and chief medical officer Dr. Tony Holohan.

Eleven positive cases of Covid-19 are being screened to determine if they are of the Omicron variant.

Alliance leaders are also expected to discuss the possibility of a negative pre-arrival PCR test required for all passengers traveling to Ireland.

Minister Donnelly said: “It is possible that we will have cases of this nature in the country.

“We will get confirmation in the coming days, but the working assumption at this point is that there are cases here.

«We are also asking the family, so anyone who lives with people who have returned from these countries, to go into a 10-day quarantine as well.»

These seven countries are – Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Minister Donnelly also said the government is now asking people who have traveled back to Ireland from one of those countries to stay home and contact HSE so they can arrange a PCR test.

He said: «The other thing we’re asking is that for anyone who’s been back in Ireland in the last few weeks, who’s been in one of these seven countries, they stay home and also get in touch with HSE.

“They will organize a priority PCR test for you, so obviously we can do it from there.

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Obviously, we are approaching this matter with great caution.

«HSE, I’m happy to say, are already working on this.

«We worked over the weekend, so now HSE is back through passenger locator forums, checking them against potential positive cases and reaching out to people to do contact tracing, sequencing, etc.»

People traveling back from one of the seven countries are required to self-quarantine at home for 10 days and take a PCR test on the second and eighth day when returning to the country.

Alliance leaders are also expected to discuss the possibility of a negative pre-arrival PCR test required for all passengers traveling to Ireland.

When asked about this, Secretary Donnelly said: «I think for the time being we will listen to what Dr Holohan has to say in terms of advice on that.

But we will take a precautionary approach about it.

“Obviously there are a lot of unknowns, you know, we need to know how transmissible it is against Delta.

“Does it make people sicker? Or maybe less sick?”

“We need to prove that and then obviously one of the big questions is is there any difference in the effect in terms of the vaccine? So there are a lot of unknowns.

«But as we await some of these answers from the scientific community, it is clear that we are taking measures to keep people safe and really slow the spread of this alternative.»

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