Extra measures for children threaten if concern changes to new variant

New measures to restrict indoor gatherings for children and introduce face masks for students aged nine and older will be considered by the government on Friday.

Ministers are concerned about the number of Covid-19 cases leading up to the Christmas season and the emergence of a new Covid variant spreading in South Africa, potentially making vaccines less effective and efforts to fight the pandemic be endangered.

In a statement on Thursday evening, the health ministry said: “So far, no cases of this variant have been reported in Europe, but the health minister is very concerned.”

It said the department had been monitoring the emergence of the new variant B.1.1.529 in recent days and that the World Health Organization (WHO) met Friday to further assess its significance.

This variant has been identified in a number of countries in southern Africa and in Hong Kong, but the department noted that “WHO has not yet identified this variant as a variant of concern”.

The UK has suspended fighting from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe from noon on Friday.

Current Ministry of Foreign Affairs travel guidance “no longer advises against non-essential travel to South Africa based on current assessment of Covid-19 risks”.

A spokesperson for the department says that no update of the travel advice is expected on Thursday evening.

After a meeting on Thursday, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) recommended that the government avoid indoor gatherings for children for the next two weeks. This includes events such as Christmas games, sleepovers, birthday parties, and playdates.

In a letter to Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly, Chief Physician Dr Tony Holohan also reportedly recommended that children aged nine and over wear masks in school and other indoor settings and on public transport, as is currently the case for those aged 13 and over. -plus.

Nphet also recommends extending the requirement for Covid passes to other indoor settings, such as gyms and hairdressers.

The measures will be considered today by Mr Donnelly and colleagues from the government.

It’s clear that Nphet won’t make a decision on recommending further restrictions until next week, when it has more data on whether the number of cases and hospitalizations are reaching a plateau, as some officials and ministers have suggested.

“This will be the most serious gathering if the numbers don’t drop,” said a senior source, suggesting a series of tougher restrictions in the run-up to Christmas are in the pipeline.

In a statement last night, Dr. Holohan said the number of Covid-19 infections remained “concernedly high” and urged people to reduce their social contacts in the coming weeks.

He also said people should “pay attention to your contacts in the days after socializing, and especially be mindful of anyone you meet who may be immunocompromised or vulnerable to Covid-19”.

He spoke as the HSE stepped up its schedule on how it will vaccinate children between the ages of five and 11 after the EU drug regulator approved the use of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for that age group.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the use of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in children aged five to 11 at a lower dose than for teenagers and adults.

The move paves the way for Ireland’s National Immunization Advisory Committee to consider introducing the vaccine to children here. It is clear that the special injections for children will not be delivered in Ireland until around December 20, and it is considered unlikely that the vaccine will be given to primary school children here before the New Year.

Paul Reid, the chief executive of the HSE, said he welcomed the EMA decision. “We understand that delivery of those vaccines across Europe will be by the end of December, so what we will do in the meantime is to mobilize a plan and the channels in which we would prepare the vaccination of those younger age groups, ” he said.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *