The Ministry of Health said in a statement this evening that the Nphet Epidemiological Team is meeting regularly this weekend to monitor the development of the situation of the Omicron variant in Europe and «consider further actions required.»
On Saturday night, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) said it was aware of new cases of Omicron in the UK, Italy, Germany and Belgium although they had not been formally notified by European alert systems yet.
She added, «Neft’s epidemiology team meets regularly over the weekend to monitor the situation and is currently studying further required measures.»
She added that a series of initial measures had been taken to mitigate the arrival of this variant in Ireland.
«The status of this new format will remain under constant review by all relevant bodies.»
The measures currently in place include emergency brakes for travel to and from the seven countries involved in connection with the variant.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has changed its travel advisory to «avoid non-essential travel» to these countries. Irish residents returning home from these countries will be required to undergo a strict home quarantine regardless of vaccination status or recovery status. They will also need to undergo a PCR test during quarantine.
«Regulations are being urgently put in place to implement new travel and home quarantine policies,» said Neft’s statement.
“The Department of Justice is arranging for increased immediate screening of passengers with BMU upon arrival.”
Nphet also confirmed that mandatory quarantine options are being examined at the hotel on an emergency basis.
The Irish government will review steps taken by the UK government against the new Covid-19 Omicron variant, which requires all travelers entering the state to have a PCR test by the second day of arrival.
A government source said all responses to the alternative were under review, including that of the United Kingdom announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday.
A series of meetings will be held in the coming days to address the public health challenges facing Ireland with the Omicron variant, first discovered in South Africa.
The source said the advice was not to follow UK leadership at the moment but to wait for the outcome of a series of high-level discussions over the next few days on the best approach. This could include a decision to follow UK steps that require all incoming passengers to take a PCR test on arrival and self-isolate until they have a negative result. However, this possibility has not been discussed by senior ministers and public health advisers.
It is also understood that work is also underway this weekend on a new model to locate passengers for people arriving on Irish soil. This will ensure that the original place of travel is included on the form. None of the seven countries in South Africa that have reported cases of the new variant have direct flights to Ireland.
This comes after announcing the preparation of legislation to re-impose the mandatory hotel quarantine. Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said, Saturday, that it will be the first item on the agenda at the Cabinet meeting next Tuesday.
On Friday, the Irish government followed the European Union in agreeing to implement an «emergency brake» on arrivals from seven countries in South Africa.
Mr Ryan also said the State Department was working with a «small number» of people in South Africa who were trying to return to Ireland following travel restrictions.
Mr. Ryan said options for people with airlines are limited and that the department is considering chartering a plane to repatriate those people.
Mr. Ryan said the news of the Omicron variant came as a shock and one of the most disheartening developments recently in the pandemic.
«I’ll be honest, I got freaked out yesterday. It was a hit. I was thinking if we get these reinforcements in the next few weeks we’ll be in better shape, we’ll do it.»
He said it was not yet clear whether this new alternative would be more transmissible or be able to bypass some of the protections provided by vaccines.
Asked if the Cabinet would consider other restrictions in addition to the mandatory quarantine, Ryan said the truth is that much of what has been accomplished must continue.
Under the restrictions announced on Friday, people arriving in Ireland from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique will have to submit a PCR result before the ‘undetected’ flight, regardless of vaccination status, and a 10-day home quarantine, to take my test Additional PCR.
Sinn Fein health spokesman David Cullinan said it was accepted that the Omicron variant was a real concern and there was a need to act quickly.
A spokesman for the department said it was providing consular assistance to Irish citizens who had requested it. Interested Irish citizens traveling in South Africa can contact the Irish Embassy in Pretoria by email Pretoria @dfa.ie.
For those in other countries in the region, contact details are available Here.
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