Omicron now accounts for 90% of COVID infections in Northern Ireland - Ministers

The NI Executive has confirmed the 10-day isolation requirement has now been reduced to seven days.

By Brendan McDaid
Monday, 3rd January 2022, 10:49 am

Ministers met on Thursday to discuss the current situation with Omicron amid soaring COVID cases across the north.

After the virtual meeting broke up, First Minister Paul Givan Tweeted that there would be no new restrictions for now.

This has since been confirmed in an official statement issued by the NI Executive, however Ministers said the situation will be monitored closely this week.

Templemore Sports Complex. DER2152GS – 005

The Executive agreed that the current package of COVID-19 measures for now remains a proportionate response to the Omicron variant.

Ministers discussed self-isolation requirements and the proposal to reduce self-isolation from 10 to 7 days subject to a negative LFD test on day six and a second negative LFD test taken at least 24 hours later on day seven was adopted.

A spokesperson said: “PCR testing and the new guidance for testing was also discussed. There has been a significant increase in testing requirements and the Executive encourage everyone to follow the latest guidance and only book a PCR if necessary.

“Anyone with symptoms should isolate immediately and book a test in the normal way. The latest advice is available at: www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/public-urged-use-covid-19-testing-only-when-needed.

“Omicron became the dominant variant of COVID-19 before Christmas Day and the daily infection rate has increased dramatically in the last week. It now accounts for around 90 per cent of cases here.

“While there remains a great deal of uncertainty about Omicron, there is some encouragement from initial research which suggests it may be less severe than the Delta variant in terms of the proportion of infected people requiring hospitalisation. Further data on illness severity will emerge in the next one to two weeks and this will help further inform the modelling and the Executive’s considerations. However, the high infection rate of Omicron will lead to more hospitalisations and additional pressures on hospitals.”

The NI Executive Ministers said widespread community transmission will inevitably lead to more staff absences in essential services and warned that it was important ‘not to drop our guard and that everyone continues to make safer choices to keep themselves and others safe’.

“There is a sufficient supply of lateral flow tests for Northern Ireland. Community pharmacies and other collection sites are being replenished regularly. You can use the online site finder to find a local collection site. If the site closest to you does not have any tests, you can look for other collection sites in your local area. You can also order a LFD test online for home delivery. Due to high demand, tests may be released in batches throughout the day on the online home delivery service. If you are not able to order tests immediately, please check again regularly throughout the day,” they said.