MINISTER FOR Health Stephen Donnelly has today announced updates to rules surrounding close contacts, self-isolation and restriction of movement.
The changes, he said, "will help alleviate the extreme pressure on our healthcare service and other functions in society, including essential services," and come following updated advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team.
Now, people who are deemed close contacts but have received a booster vaccination and have no symptoms should no longer have to isolate for five days.
They will be advised to wear a medical or higher grade mask and to regularly test themselves with antigen tests.
Those who have not received a booster vaccine will be required to restrict their movements for seven days.
There will now no longer be a requirement to confirm and antigen test with a follow-up PCR test if an individual is between the ages of four and 39.
The new rules take effect from midnight tomorrow.
"As we are all aware, the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is having a significant impact on our health service with over 1,000 people currently in hospital with COVID-19," Minister Donnelly said.
"Increased rates of infection in the community are also having a knock-on effect on other essential services.
"These changes will reduce the requirement for restricted movements for close contacts while enhancing other protective measures particularly mask wearing and reiterating the importance for all of us to continue to follow the public health measures."
Last week, the government announced that there will be a new online portal to allow people to register their positive antigen tests and this is expected to be operational in the coming days.
Sinn Féin's Heelt spokesperson David Cullinane said yesterday that the government should make antigen tests freely available in the event that the requirement for a confirmatory PCR test is scrapped.
Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin similarly called for free antigen tests to be made available, however there has been no indication that this will be implemented by government.