The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has made new recommendations to the Government amid the latest surge of Covid-19.
As reported in The Irish Times, it is understood that Nphet has advised the Government that children aged nine and under should wear masks in schools and other indoor areas.
It is further understood that, in a letter to the Minster for Health Stephen Donnelly, Dr Tony Holohan said indoor gatherings for children should be avoided for the next two weeks.
This recommendation is expected to include activities such as nativity plays, sleepovers, birthday parties and playdates.
This comes as the State recorded a further 4,764 new cases of the virus on Thursday. At 8am, there 598 Covid patients in hospital, 126 of whom were in ICU.
According to The Irish Times, Nphet is also advising that the requirement of Covid passes is extended to indoor spaces such as gyms, hairdressers and personal services.
The Minister for Health is expected to consider Nphet’s new recommendations on Friday. However, it is understood that the Government will not make a decision on further measures until next week when further data on the current Covid-19 situation is available.
On Thursday, major concerns over the health service were reported as significant numbers of staff are currently absent from work because of Covid issues.
The HSE said there are 5,106 staff not in work because they have either tested positive for Covid or been deemed a close contact.
Chief operations office Anne O’Connor said the figure does not include the people who are cocooning, and the overall number of absent staff could amount to 5,800.
HSE boss Paul Reid said there continues to be a “really serious and continued escalation” of transmission levels in the community.
The chief executive said, however, that there has been a “very strong response” from the public over the past 10 days.
“Many people, and it’s very obvious now, have moved to work from home,” Mr Reid added.
“Certainly many people have planned to curtail their activities.
“I want to acknowledge from a health system we do appreciate that many people are making many sacrifices and giving plenty of support at this time.”
He said these sacrifices will be needed for a “sustained period of time”.
– Additional reporting by PA