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# Colm Henry
PCR testing system could be re-opened to all age groups, Colm Henry says
HSE Chief Clinical Officer said that he does not foresee any changes to mask wearing guidelines in the immediate future.

GUIDELINES ON MASKS are not likely to change in the immediate future, with PCR testing policies being reviewed following changes during the Omicron surge, says HSE.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Colm Henry said that while Covid-19 is on it’s way to becoming a more seasonal virus, it isn’t there yet and that he doesn’t foresee any changes to the guidelines in the coming weeks.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) are set to meet on 17 February to discuss mask guidelines.

Current guidelines on mask wearing are set to remain in place until 28 February, alongside advice on restricting movements and self-isolating.

Following the easing of a majority of Covid-19 restrictions in January, rules on mask wearing has remained in specific areas, including on public transport and in cinemas and theatres.

On Covid-19 testing, speaking at a HSE technical briefing this afternoon, Henry said that the health service are currently working with the Department of Health and are reviewing the current PCR testing policies and that it could be reopened to all age cohorts.

He said that this follows the new knowledge known about the Omicron variant being less severe than previous variants, but that the Department and the HSE have not yet reached a final conclusion on changing the current testing regime.

Following high demand for PCR testing at the height of the Omicron wave, regulations on testing were changed so only people aged over 40 or children aged between three months and three years old could access a test.

The remaining age cohort between four and 39 were asked to take an antigen test, and report their results through a HSE portal.

The potential change to testing policies come as some European countries have either proposed scrapping testing requirements or have done so already.

In Sweden, wide-scale Covid-19 testing has been halted with all mobile testing sites, drive in testing centres and home-delivered tests being completely scrapped.

Speaking following the move, Swedish Public Health Agency chief Karin Tegmark Wisell told national broadcaster SVT: “We have reached a point where the cost and relevance of the testing are no longer justifiable.”

Under the new rules, only healthcare and elderly care workers and the most vulnerable will be able to access Covid-19 testing.

Antigen tests will remain available in shops and supermarkets, but these are not reported by health authorities.

In England, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he will remove all remaining Covid-19 restrictions, including the legal requirement to self-isolate, within weeks.

Johnson said he will present his plan for “living with Covid” when Parliament returns from a short recess on 21 February, with an aim of lifting the requirement to self-isolate within days of that.

- Additional reporting by Press Association.

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