Govt expects NPHET to formally advise work-from-home ‘where possible'

Political sources indicate health officials will be sending out a strong message to keep the rate of infection lower.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 11th 2021, 8:41 PM

Updated: 20.40

THE GOVERNMENT IS expecting that NPHET will reinforce its message urging people to work from home where possible.

Political sources indicate the emergency public health team will be sending out a strong message that people should be careful and should look to seriously reduce their social contacts.

However it is thought there won’t be a significant change to the recent urging from Dr Ronan Glynn to return to remote working where possible this winter.

Despite the reiteration of the work-from-home message government sources have said no letter outlining the call has been received from NPHET, while they also believe there is no mandate to reintroduce restrictions to keep people away from the office.

The message comes as a further 3,680 cases were confirmed today.

The belief of a reinforced appeal from NPHET comes on foot of comments from Health Minister Stephen Donnelly earlier, who said the Government is not actively considering a full return to working from home policy.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Donnelly added that he has not received any advice from public health officials on this. 

“I haven’t received any advice to that end and it’s not something that government is actively considering at the moment,” he said. 

“I think at the press conference last night, the NPHET team were being asked about a lot of different hypotheticals and they were giving a view generally that given the cases numbers right now they would prefer people to be opting for the safer option.”

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is meeting today to discuss whether further Covid-19 measures need to be recommended. 

Speaking at the weekly NPHET press briefing yesterday, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said new restrictions are currently not on the table, but added that he would favour Covid certs being a requirement for entry to environments such as gyms and hairdressers.

However, Donnelly this morning said a mandatory extension of the use of Covid certs is not on the cards. 

“It is not the advice I have had and it is not something government is considering,” he said. 

“Dr Holohan was asked outright for his opinion – is it the kind of thing he would like to see, is it the kind of thing that would make things safer,” Donnelly added. 

“Of course, it would make things safer. The more the Covid pass is used, the safer it is. It protects the people using the service, it protects the people working in the service,” he said.

“But in terms of regulation or government policy, that is not something we are looking at, at the moment.”

Elsewhere, Dr Mary Favier, the President of the Irish College of General Practitioners, has urged people to adjust their behaviour to help turn around infection rates. 

Dr Favier told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that despite rising Covid-19 figures, the health service is “holding steady, just”. 

However, she added that everything in the health system is under strain and that “we really do need to look at how we want to achieve things in the next number of weeks and into Christmas”. 

She said people need to look at how to manage social interactions and gatherings “and just try and do less in the next week or two”. 

Similarly, Dr Holohan yesterday urged people to consider reducing their social interactions by half over the next two weeks in order to reduce the number of Covid-19 infections.

“If you’re planning to go out two nights a week, maybe just go out once. If you’re planning to have 10 people over to the house for a particular event, maybe just have five,” Dr Holohan said. 

“If we can do that, across the population, we think that could have a significant effect in terms of transmission,” he said. 

He warned that, as we enter the run-up to Christmas, the virus will have more opportunities to spread through increased “intergenerational socialisation” where families are gathering together.

However, he added that: “Christmas 2021 will be different to Christmas 2020, because of vaccination.”

With reporting by Hayley Halpin, Rónán Duffy and Christina Finn

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