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With cases on the rise, what is the current advice if you catch Covid-19?

Cases have been increasing in recent weeks due to the spread of subvariants of the Omicron strain.

File photo of people walking in Dublin.
File photo of people walking in Dublin.
Image: RollingNews.ie

AS WE HEAD into the summer months, Ireland is experiencing a surge of Covid-19 cases once again. 

Cases have been on the rise in recent weeks due to the spread of subvariants of the Omicron strain, which are replacing the previously dominant BA.2 variant, which spread across Ireland in late 2021.

According to the latest Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) report, there were 12,456 cases of Covid-19 reported between 19 and 25 June, an increase of 19.3% compared to the previous week, when there were 10,435 confirmed Covid-19 cases notified.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the number of new Covid cases rose by 18% in the last week, with more than 4.1 million cases reported globally.

“As countries across the European region have lifted the social measures that were previously in place, the virus will transmit at high levels over the summer”, WHO Europe regional director Hans Kluge told AFP.

“This virus won’t go away just because countries stop looking for it. It’s still spreading, it’s still changing, and it’s still taking lives.”

With the milder but more contagious Omicron subvariant BA.5 spreading across the continent, the 53 countries in the WHO European region are currently registering just under 500,000 cases daily, according to the organisation’s data.

The UN health agency said in its latest weekly report on the pandemic that the worldwide number of deaths remained relatively similar to the week before, at about 8,500.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said cases were on the rise in 110 countries, mostly driven by BA.4 and BA.5.

“This pandemic is changing, but it’s not over,” he said during a press briefing.

Dr Tedros said the ability to track Covid-19’s genetic evolution was “under threat” as countries relaxed surveillance and genetic sequencing efforts, warning that would make it more difficult to catch emerging and potentially dangerous new variants.

On Monday, it emerged that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly is set to draft precautionary legislation that would allow for masks to be made mandatory in certain settings again.

There are currently no plans to implement any such requirement and sources have stated that this is not expected at any time in the near future.

The emergency powers permitting the government to impose legal restrictions during the pandemic lapsed earlier this year. This legislation would be able to be passed quickly if the threat of the virus were deemed to be high again.

But as the threat level has been low, many people may have lost track of what the public health advice is when you contract Covid-19.

If that’s the case, we have everything you need to know about what you should do if you get Covid, or are a close contact of someone who has it.

What do I do if I have Covid-19 symptoms?

Anyone with Covid symptoms is advised to self-isolate until 48 hours after their symptoms have mostly or fully gone. 

If you have to be around other people, it’s advised that you wear a face mask.

When should I seek a Covid-19 test?

According to the HSE, you do not need to get a Covid PCR or antigen test if you are under 55 years of age with Covid symptoms but you are otherwise healthy, or if you are aged 55 or older and you are fully boosted, even if you have Covid symptoms.

Anyone aged 55 or older with symptoms who hasn’t had a Covid vaccine booster dose and has a high-risk medical condition or is immunocompromised should seek a PCR test.

Those who live in the same household as a person who has a weak immune system or provides support or care for them should also seek a PCR test if they have symptoms of Covid.

Pregnant women and healthcare workers should also seek a PCR test.

Healthcare workers who are household close contacts can get an antigen test from the HSE if they don’t have Covid symptoms and haven’t had Covid in the past three months. 

However, if people feel they should take an antigen test just to be on the safe side, they can be purchased from pharmacies and retail outlets and done at the person’s discretion. Advice on these antigen tests can be found here.

The HSE does not recommended antigen tests for children under the age of 4.

What do I do if I test positive for Covid-19?

Those that receive a positive PCR or antigen test result should start to self-isolate as soon they get the result, even if they have mild symptoms or none at all.

Positive and negative antigen test results should be registered on the HSE website

Self-isolation should last for seven full days, including the day the test result is received or the day that they first notice symptoms. It means staying indoors and completely avoiding contact with other people, including the people you live with.

People can stop self-isolating after seven days if they have had no symptoms for the last 48 hours.

Anyone that still has a mild cough or changes to their sense of smell at the end of the seven days can stop self-isolating, as these symptoms can last for weeks after the infection if gone. 

After self-isolating, people should take extra care for another three days to reduce the risk of passing on the virus. They are advised to take precaution in crowded spaces, limit close contact with other people outside their household and wear a face mask.

They are also advised to work from home for those three days if possible.

What do I do if I’m a close contact of someone that tests positive for Covid-19?

Close contacts of people who test positive for Covid do not need to self-isolate or restrict their movements. 

However, they are advised to watch out for symptoms of the virus. It can take up to 14 days after infection for symptoms to show, according to the HSE.

Close contacts also don’t need to do a Covid test, unless they are a healthcare worker.

Healthcare workers living with someone who has Covid should do three antigen tests over seven days, but they don’t need to restrict their movements.

Is the advice the same for children that test positive for Covid-19?

The advice for children is largely the same. They will need to self-isolate if they develop symptoms of, or test positive for, Covid-19.

Children aged 13 and older should follow the same public health advice as adults. 

Children aged 12 and younger who test positive for Covid should remain in self-isolation until they have not had a high temperature (38 degrees Celsius or over) or other symptoms for 48 hours, and it has been seven days since they developed symptoms. 

People living in the same household should follow the same advice given to close contacts.

If anyone else in the household develops symptoms, they should also self-isolate and get a Covid test if necessary.

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What if I’m living or caring for someone who can’t self-isolate?

In this instance, people need to take extra care to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Anyone caring for someone with Covid should make sure that they and the person they are caring for is wearing a mask when in the same room. 

They should try to limit their movement within the home, and ensure the room that they are staying in is well ventilated.

They should also make sure to wash their hands after they have interacted with the person with Covid to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

If possible, only one person should look after the person isolating. This should be someone who is in good health and fully vaccinated against Covid if possible.

Do I need a Covid-19 test to travel abroad?

Many countries no longer require a PCR test result to enter. Travel advice for over 200 countries is available on the Department of Foreign Affair’s website.

However, a HSE Covid-19 test result can’t be used for international travel from Ireland. A private testing company can provide all documents needed for travel. 

Can I still get a Covid-19 vaccination?

Yes, people can still receive a free Covid-19 vaccine.

The first and second dose, or primary doses, of the vaccine are available to people aged 5 or older, while the first booster dose is available to people aged 12 or older. 

The second booster dose is available to people over 65 and people over 12 with a weaker immune system.

People can book a vaccine on the HSE’s website

About the author:

Jane Moore

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