The Government will consider reducing the self-isolation period from 10 to five days for some who test positive for Covid-19, according to the Green Party leader.
Eamon Ryan said these changes would impact those who test positive for Covid-19 if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving, while Government may also reconsider the rules around isolation for close contacts.
Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Mr Ryan said they will look at international examples, such as the recommendation from the American Centre for Disease Control, when party leaders meet on Tuesday and will put any proposals on the issue to Cabinet when it meets on Wednesday.
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The Minister for the Environment added that he expects schools, crèches and colleges will reopen on schedule despite the rise in cases of Covid-19.
Mr Ryan said that each school would have different circumstances.
However, he added that schools have managed through Covid-19 very well up to now.
Mr Ryan said that the solution was not shutting schools, but he acknowledged that some schools may have to close if they cannot get teaching cover next week.
Asked if the Government is expecting staff shortages in schools and creches next week due to high #Covid19 cases, @EamonRyan says 'Right across the economy we will probably be under pressure' but 'it is important that the schools do open on Thursday' | https://t.co/66o8URcIAq pic.twitter.com/FodtRT0Vrs— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 2, 2022
He said that while there has been a rise in hospitalisations during the Omicron surge, the number of people in intensive care units has remained steady.
However, he said that the risk is that the high case numbers might still result in hospitals being under pressure.
The minister also said the Government will consider reducing the self-isolation period from 10 to five days for those who test positive for Covid-19 and reconsider the rules around isolation for close contacts.
He said they will look at international examples, such as the recommendation from the US Centers for Disease Control, when party leaders meet on Tuesday and will put any proposals on the issue to Cabinet when it meets on Wednesday.
Mr Ryan said it is expected that the Omicron variant would result in a dramatic increase in cases but that it was likely to be much shorter than previous variants.
Asked about the discrepancy between official Government policy and the advice given by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan ahead of New Year's Eve, Mr Ryan said that there was uniformity between public health and Government messaging.
He said that they were united in the fact that the wave of Omicron was going to be a real challenge.
Asked if there have been more mixed messages from the Government on public health advice with @CMOIreland going further than official Government policy on limiting social contacts, @EamonRyan tells @thisweekrte "the messaging is clear" | https://t.co/Wd7BDiZFzo pic.twitter.com/xAlH84La6M— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 2, 2022
Mr Ryan said that the Irish people recognised that they needed to be careful and he said they were sensible and had heeded government advice.
The minister said that there was ongoing meetings between the Government over the past two weeks.
He said that it would not have been right for Government to come out and change the advice on Christmas week.
Supply chains impacted
With a record number of Covid-19 cases in the past week, and more than 120,000 testing positive for the virus between Christmas and the new year, business and services around the country are feeling the impact.
IBEC say current isolation rules could have an impact on the supply chain and need to be changed to ensure the public health crisis is not compounded by an economic crisis.
Bus Éireann says there's some minor disruption to its services due to Covid-19 related absences.
Dublin Bus had a similar issue on New Year's Eve but that has since been resolved.
An Garda Síochána says it maintains "effective operational resilience" but that the impact of Covid-19 "is more significant at this time".
Dublin Fire Brigade management say they continue to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on staff and that the situation is changing on a daily basis.
The Irish Prison Service says it is not in a position to comment on staffing levels in individual prisons for operational and security reasons, but it said it is experiencing an increased level of absence amongst staff as a result of the current high levels of Covid-19 in the community.
Aer Lingus said it had to consolidate a small number of flights over the past week due to resource availability challenges.
And after a high number of security staff at Dublin Airport were absent in recent days, they received a derogation to allow asymptotic close contacts in key roles return to work.
Elaine Dunne of the Federation of Early Childhood Providers said although childcare services have been told by Government to reopen this week, many do not have the staffing levels to allow them to safely do so.
Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive's Chief Clinical Officer has said at least 3,800 frontline healthcare staff are out of work on Covid-related leave.
Speaking on the same programme, Dr Colm Henry said he expected this number to be much higher in the coming weeks.
He said that hospitals have been mandated to redeploy staff and to take the action they need to support essential services.
Mr Henry said the Omicron variant may well be milder than previous variants of Covid-19 and there was evidence coming from abroad that there is a reduced hospitalisation.
However, he said that due to the high numbers, if enough cases convert into serious illness, hospitals could be under pressure and this is what is been seen across England and Wales.
Dr Henry said that the HSE is working on a system where people can register their own positive antigen results and register their contacts on the HSE website.