| 13.1°C Belfast

Executive poised to move on lifting more restrictions

Givan announces reduction of self-isolation period

Close

Dr Susan Hopkins, UK Health Security Agency as plans for ending Plan B Covid measures in England at Downing Street are announced. Credit: WPA Pool/Getty Images

Dr Susan Hopkins, UK Health Security Agency as plans for ending Plan B Covid measures in England at Downing Street are announced. Credit: WPA Pool/Getty Images

Getty Images

Dr Carl Heneghan

Dr Carl Heneghan

/

Dr Susan Hopkins, UK Health Security Agency as plans for ending Plan B Covid measures in England at Downing Street are announced. Credit: WPA Pool/Getty Images

The isolation period after contracting Covid-19 is to be reduced from seven to five days, the First Minister has said.

It is understood Paul Givan’s announcement on Twitter took the Department of Health by surprise, as restrictions are due to be reviewed by the Executive today.

The First Minister hinted that more restrictions are to be lifted and more “progress made” after the meeting.

After Christmas, nightclubs were closed, and curbs were put in place in hospitality venues to help tackle the spread of Omicron, including a ban on dancing and the ‘rule of six’ limit on table sizes enforced.

Over 3,200 businesses — including cafes, nightclubs, bars and social clubs — will now be eligible for the one-off grant payment of either £10,000, £15,000 or £20,000 based on their rateable value.

Mr Givan tweeted: "From 21st January Department of Health has confirmed self isolation period in Northern Ireland will reduce from 7 days to 5. Today I’ve been engaging with colleagues & officials on what Covid measures can be lifted at tomorrow’s Executive. I’m hopeful we can make progress.”

Elsewhere, Boris Johnson told MPs yesterday that mandatory face masks will no longer be required across England from next week while advice for people to work from home will be dropped immediately

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

He said he would axe ‘Plan B’ measures, which include the use of mandatory Covid passes for nightclubs and large events, owing to a decline in infections and a belief among scientists that the peak of the Omicron wave has passed.

As a result of the move, people are no longer required to work from home where possible, while face masks will no longer be needed in places such as shops and on public transport from next Thursday.

Face coverings will also be scrapped in classrooms from today, with school communal areas to follow.

The legal requirement for people with coronavirus to self-isolate will be allowed to lapse when the regulations in England expire on March 24, and that date could be brought forward.

Yesterday, a further six people who previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland died, the Department of Health reported. Another 4,451 confirmed cases of the virus were also recorded in the latest 24-hour reporting period.

Yesterday morning, there were 404 Covid-positive patients in hospital, with 25 in intensive care. Of those, 20 were being treated on ventilators.

Meanwhile, an urgent care GP has said that these figures are “promising” and is urging the Executive to follow England’s lead and remove all current restrictions in place.

Professor Dr Carl Heneghan said the most important figure to pay attention to is the fact that there are only 20 people currently on ventilators here after contracting the virus.

“It doesn’t get much better than this for respiratory pathogens at this time of year,” he said.

“The data is highly reassuring as this time last year we had over 100 admissions to hospitals, but even though the number of cases has increased, the number of deaths and inpatients has not drastically increased.

“This is promising, and I feel that the Executive should pay close attention to these numbers and move away from following this case-number data.

“My worry is if we don’t come out of restrictions now based on the data, when will we and what will it take to do so?”

Dr Heneghan, who teaches evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford, has said that Northern Ireland, along with the rest of the UK, has passed the peak of the Omicron wave.

“The peak was supposedly around the 28th or 30th of December, so we are well past it now,” he said.

“And now is the time to start thinking about the likes of the economy, healthcare system, education and mental health services; features of society that we need to start restoring urgently.

“No matter what your policies are, infections will peak and fall away and natural immunity will kick in.


Top Videos



Privacy