Dr Tony Holohan will advise on the ‘continued need’ for some Covid measures as Omicron ‘probably isn’t the last variant of concern’

The chief medical officer is expected to tell TDs and senators there will be an “ongoing need” to retain certain public health measures such as mask-wearing to reduce risk.

Dr Tony Holohan is also expected to say the country must have the capability to respond to “any emerging threat”, as Omicron is unlikely to be the latest variant of concern.

Dr Holohan, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn and NPHET Professor Philip Nolan are due to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Health on Wednesday morning.

Dr. Holohan is expected to give a positive update to TDs and senators on the current outlook for Covid-19 nationwide.

NPHET members will answer questions from TDs and Senators about Covid-19 and its management.

Sinn Fein health spokesman David Cullinane said he would ask NPHET members about the future of the test and trace system in the country and whether the public will be offered annual Covid vaccines, as well as lessons to be learned from the pandemic.

Sinn Fein health spokesperson David Cullinane TD

Dr Holohan will tell the committee that there has been a decrease in the number of new confirmed cases in hospital each day, cases in intensive care and a decrease in cases requiring mechanical ventilation.

And the overall mortality linked to Covid-19 remains relatively stable.

He is expected to tell TDs that the evidence relating to Omicron as well as our experience with it ‘indicates that the burden of serious health problems appears to be reduced compared to previous waves of infection’.

While NPHET clearly knows the pandemic is not over, the nationwide epidemiological profile of COVID-19 offers an overall positive outlook, according to Dr. Holohan.

“A series of data indicates that the incidence is high but has decreased from its peak and the demand for tests and the positivity of PCR tests have also decreased,” he should say.

The NPHET recommended a “fundamental change” in the approach to managing the disease on January 20 in its advice to government which saw the lifting of almost all Covid-19 related restrictions.

Dr Holohan will say: “In advising that social and economic restrictions could be removed, NPHET stressed that the pandemic is not over and that with a significant level of infection nationwide, COVID-19 still poses a risk to public health.

“In this regard, it will be necessary to maintain certain public health measures to reduce the risks.

Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan pictured at the Department of Health this afternoon during a Covid-19 press conference.

“Protective measures must remain in place in primary and secondary schools, masks must continue to be worn in all settings where they are currently regulated, and we must continue to encourage everyone to complete their primary and booster vaccination programs. .

“Masks will also continue to play a key role in reducing the transmission of Covid-19.

“It’s important that people wear the mask that works best for them and the circumstances they may find themselves in, making sure it fits properly and is worn correctly.”

Education Minister Norma Foley said on Tuesday there was still a commitment to review children wearing masks in schools by February 28.

In its latest advice to government, NPHET said this measure will be reviewed at the end of February.

Dr Holohan will tell TDs and senators that while the pandemic isn’t over, “it’s safe to get back to the activities we all enjoy, – in terms of socializing, exercise, family, work and trip”.

He is expected to tell the health committee that while the current outlook in Ireland is positive, the global epidemiology of Covid-19 is “characterized by the emergence and rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the continued decline in the prevalence of Delta variant, and a very low level of circulation of the Alpha, Beta and Gamma variants.”

And that Omicron “is not likely to be the last variant of concern (VOC) we face, and the global public health risk remains very high.

“Therefore, we must remain vigilant and ensure our response is agile and flexible, with the ability to react quickly and appropriately to any emerging threat.”