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NPHET’s view is the trajectory is positive towards the easing of restrictions, says health minister

Erik G

THE NATIONAL PUBLIC Health Emergency Team is understood to have given a positive outlook on the further easing of restrictions in June and July.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said he met with Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan following today’s NPHET meeting.

“I am very happy to report… that NPHET’s view is the trajectory is positive,” he said.

The minister said that the Irish people have gotten behind the measures and are keeping case numbers and hospitalisation figures low.

Senior government sources have indicated that the “mood music” from NPHET this afternoon was “favourable”.

While the public health experts are understood to be worried about the variant that originated in India, though “not unduly” so, say sources.

Last week, Holohan flagged concerns about the so-called Indian variant, calling it a “dark cloud on the horizon”.

A total of 72 cases of the Indian variant in the coutnry were confirmed by Dr Cillian de Gascun last week. This variant is also known as B.1.617.2.

Currently, the main concerns around the Indian variant are increased transmissibility over the B117 or UK variant.

However, government sources have said the key metric now is the number of hospitalisations alongside the vaccine roll out numbers.

Speaking at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this evening, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar warned that the pandemic was not over and that “we’re not out of the woods yet”.

There were calls from some TDs to scrap mandatory quarantine, however, he mentioned there is still a possibility of a fourth wave.

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The public health experts are understood to still be very hostile to antigen testing following today’s meeting.

Government has adopted in full a report by the Professor Mark Ferguson on antigen testing, which called for antigen testing to be rolled out as soon as possible in a range of settings, such as schools, colleges as well as the public. 

However, there has been significant push back against the rapid testing from some in NPHET.

Following today’s meeting, NPHET advice will be given to the government on whether the green light can be given to the further reopening of society. 

Tomorrow evening the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 which includes the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, will discuss the reopening of the hospitality, international travel, sport and entertainment as well as the future of mandatory quarantine.

Cabinet will then meet on Friday to sign off on the proposed easing of restrictions over the coming months. The Taoiseach will give another national address to the public.

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