And not just because PCR centres are booked out…
Almost all of Ireland’s Covid restrictions are set to be relaxed from next week, as the National Public Health Emergency Team is due to be officially disbanded.
Dr Tony Holohan recommended last week that the country’s remaining restrictions, pertaining mainly to mask wearing and social distancing, be removed in most settings. This will also affect the availability of free PCR tests, which will no longer be available for most people.
Test centres will be undergoing yet another change from Monday as only those over the age of 55, who are pregnant, or are immunocompromised (or live with a person who is) will be permitted to book a free PCR under the HSE.
Currently, free PCR tests are only available to those over the age of 40 with Covid symptoms. This age range will be reduced further from Monday, February 28.
A list of people who will still be permitted to book a free test from Monday can be found below:
- People over the age of 55 who have symptoms of Covid
- People who are pregnant
- People who are immunocompromised or have an underlying health condition
- People who are living with someone who is immunocompromised
You will no longer be able to get a free PCR test from the HSE if you are younger than 55 years old with symptoms of Covid-19, or need a PCR test to travel outside of Ireland.
Those still seeking a PCR test result who aren’t included in the above groups will need to seek a private test, which could cost upwards of €60. Otherwise, the government has recommended that people take antigen tests if they are experiencing symptoms.
Monday will see the ease of most of Ireland’s Covid restrictions, including rules around mask wearing and social distancing.
Masks will now be optional on public transport, in schools, and in shops. They will still need to be worn in healthcare settings. Social distancing and ‘pods’ will no longer be necessary in schools.
This update was announced this week following advice from NPHET. Dr Holohan has said that the group will be disbanded, but that he will continue to keep an eye on the country’s progress.