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Specific limit on number of close contacts a potential restriction after Level 5 lifts

Limits on the number of close contacts could be used to keep transmission low after Level 5 restrictions are eased.

Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

A LIMITATION ON the weekly number of close contacts per individual is a possible constraint that could come in to place after the lifting of Level 5 restrictions.

Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory Cillian De Gascun has said that a specific limitation on the number of close contacts could help to keep transmission low after Level 5 restrictions are eased next month.

Speaking on Saturday with Katie Hannon on RTÉ Radio One, De Gascun said that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is considering how to prevent a rise in Covid-19 transmission after the current restrictions are lifted.

“Nobody wants to go through rolling Level 5 restrictions on and off. That’s not really helpful for anyone,” De Gascun said.

He said that public health officials “may need to look at a situation whereby there’s a limited number of close contacts that we can have in a weekly period”.

NPHET would need to consider the “specific numbers” of close contacts that might be allowed in a week under such a restriction.

“The challenge is identifying what that number of close contacts is going to be because we want the R0 to ideally be below one, and the problem is if we’re looking at say, for argument’s sake, three close contacts versus four close contacts, that could flip the balance of an R0 from below one to above one,” De Gascun said.

We need to focus on what we want to prioritise as a society and then what we can do from a discretionary perspective.”

De Gascun said that a limit on close contacts would not necessarily eliminate social settings such as pubs and restaurants.

“We’ll have to look at what the high-risk settings and low-risk settings are,” he said. 

“It all comes down to wanting to live as much of our life as we can in a safe way while also preventing the cases increasing dramatically as they did in October

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“We want this to be beneficial and we want to get the benefit out of this and we don’t want it to be a waste of time.

When we come out of the six weeks, we can’t do what we did in August and September, because obviously that didn’t work.”

“Therefore, what we will be doing from a NPHET perspective over the next couple of weeks in conjunction with colleagues in the HSE and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre is looking at how we can be better in December and January,” De Gascun said.

Level 5 restrictions came into effect on 22 October and are currently due to lift on 1 December.

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