Government should consider advice on close contact rules

The government is expected to receive public health advice, which has considered the possibility of easing restrictions on close contact.

The matter is to be discussed by Cabinet tomorrow.

The latest guidelines from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control allow shorter periods of isolation under extreme pressure on health systems and society.

There is now a political expectation that this guidance will form the basis of the public health advice that will go to government.

Public health experts and government alike have a lot to consider as the updated ECDC guidelines come with the caveat that they are not evidence-based.

If the rules are changed, this will be followed by engagement with employers and an updated communications campaign will also begin.

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ECDC’s options for reducing the period of close contact isolation of confirmed Covid-19 cases vary depending on whether a person is vaccinated or unvaccinated, and the level of pressure on health systems and critical functions of the society.

In cases of extreme pressure and the highest level, in the case of vaccinated people, one option is not to isolate them, but to wear a high-efficiency mask and undergo a rapid antigen test or test. PCR on the fifth day.

These people would monitor symptoms themselves, keep their distance from others and avoid vulnerable populations.

Where health systems are under great pressure, those vaccinated would be tested after being identified as close contact and would be quarantined until they tested negative for antigen or PCR. .

They would then need a negative test two to four days after their negative result.

For unvaccinated people, quarantine periods could vary from five to 14 days, depending on the strain on the system and health services.

The ECDC document was released on January 7.

Micheál Martin also said he was convinced that further restrictions would not be needed to reduce the high number of cases in the current wave of Covid.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 23,909 more cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases reported by the ministry since the start of the pandemic to more than one million.

This morning, 1,062 people were hospitalized with Covid-19, a drop at the same time yesterday.

Of those, 92 patients were in intensive care units, up from three.

NCPE Director Expresses Concerns Over Antiviral Pills

Meanwhile, the director of the National Center for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE) said he was concerned about the safety and value for money of the Covid-19 antiviral drugs that the government plans to purchase at a price of $ 90million. euros.

Professor Michael Barry said the NCPE was not involved in the evaluation or approval of the drug for use in Ireland.

He said he was particularly concerned about the safety of Pfizer’s Paxlovid, the drug he says the government buys the most.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live, Professor Barry said there were issues especially with patients who are receiving other drugs, adding: “This is not a unique drug for my notice, it means it has side effects like most things.

He also expressed specific concerns about the potential side effects of ritonavir, which is part of Paxlovid treatment, and said the NCPE would write to all GPs alerting them to potential problems with prescribing these drugs.

Professor Barry said he did not question the effectiveness of the drugs, but criticized the fact that clinical trials of Pfizer’s Paxlovid were not published.

“If that was me I would wait for the clinical trial data to be released, I want to see what I’m getting for my money. The other aspect is that these deals or purchases are binding,” Professor Barry said. .

He said that at € 30m the annual budget for new drugs in Ireland is a third of what is spent on these Covid-19 antivirals, although he believes that budget will be set aside.

“There is a real question whether this is going to be profitable or not,” Professor Barry said.

Speaking on the same program, Professor Kingston Mills, an immunologist at Trinity College Dublin, said the evidence was clear these drugs were working.

He said that while the data may not have been released yet, the European Medicines Agency and the United States Food and Drug Administration, which have already approved the drug, will have seen it.

He said that “the EMA doesn’t need to have peer-reviewed documents to make a decision on a drug… they have a very strict set of rules that they have to follow in terms of regulating a drug. drug or vaccine “.

Additional reports Fergal Bowers, Laura Fletcher

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