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Vaccinated grandparents free to hug grandkids and pre-Leaving Cert 'quarantine': Key points from NPHET briefing

A round-up of NPHET’s press briefing at the Department of Health this afternoon.

Image: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER Dr. Tony Holohan has said that Leaving Cert students should limit their social contacts as much as possible to ensure they are able to complete their exams.

The Leaving Cert Examinations begin on 9 June with Holohan saying that students do not want to pick up a Covid-19 infection or be a close contact that would mean they couldn’t complete the exams in person.  

A further four deaths and 434 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed by health officials this afternoon, with a briefing held by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). 

Speaking at the briefing, Holohan and his deputy Dr. Ronan Glynn outlined advice around a variety of behaviours as the country prepares for a gradual reopening over the coming weeks

The Leaving Cert

Holohan:

“We want to ensure that we help students facing the Leaving Cert to take every measure that they individually can to prevent themselves from getting infected in the first place. The best way to ensure you complete the Leaving Cert is to stop yourself picking up this disease. As the month goes on the importance of cutting your contacts, trying to just stay away from other people, and effectively quarantining yourself in the run into the exams, particularly over the course of the last couple of weeks, will become more important.

Third-level exams

Holohan also mentioned the potential for parties among third-level students over the upcoming period. 

We will be working with the Department of Higher Education over the course of the next week or so, as third-level courses come to an end over the course of the next week and exams happen. There’s a temptation for parties or for other social engagements to take place that we can all understand and they will represent a risk, indoor gatherings of any scale that take place are a risk.
Hugging grandchildren

As of Monday, fully vaccinated people will be allowed to meet indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household with no masks or social distancing. 

Holohan said this means, for example, that grandparents who are fully vaccinated should feel free to hug their grandchildren:

People who are vaccinated will be in a position to meet up with other people who are unvaccinated and as those unvaccinated people come from just one other house, and are in low risk groups, that enables them to do that. 

He acknowledged that older people have shouldered a huge burden during the pandemic:

They’ve in a way shouldered the burden of the challenge of this, it’s been really hard for people in those age groups, cut off from their own children and cut off from their extended family and in particular grandchildren. So yes this is something that I think most people will see, understand and welcome.   

Antigen tests

Holohan said he would be “concerned” about people buying an antigen test and using a negative result a pretext to return to a workplace or host an event.

His comments come Lidl began selling antigen tests in their stores. 

Supermarkets are free to sell what they sell and I’ve no comment to make on that….. Antigen testing has a role to play in response to the pandemic in strictly controlled circumstances where we know the test is going to work. 

“Just give you a practical example, in a situation where it is easily available for people to go and buy antigen tests, we’re concerned that somebody could go into supermarket and buy a pound of sausages, charcoal for barbecue and an antigen test and think they don’t have to take the restrictions, and that represent a real risk to our pandemic response.” 

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Workplaces

Glynn encouraged people to continue to work from home if possible and employers to facilitate such working.

He said that the number of close contacts per confirmed case has been “phenomenally static” since the middle of February but that there has been a modest uptick from 2.6 to 2.8 this week. 

“We’ve seen a gradual increase in attendance, still approximately one in three people are working from home compared with the picture that we would have seen pre-pandemic. But we would encourage again as we move into next week that people who can work from home continue to work from home and particularly that employers facilitate employees in continuing to work from home where possible.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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