The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has this afternoon called on the Government to outline how the new guidance on isolation for close contacts will impact the health service.
The Government decided to reduce the isolation time for COVID-positive cases and close contacts from Friday, clearing the way for thousands of people to return to work.
But INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said that weakening the public health advice has the potential to lead to more people contracting the virus.
“We know that many asymptomatic close contacts have been a feature of the Omicron variant,” said Phil Ní Sheaghdha.
“By allowing potentially infected people to continue to work, this is going to have a knock-on impact on case transmission.”
Ní Sheaghdha added that the necessary availability and affordability of higher grade masks and antigen tests are ‘a huge concern’.
“The public will need to have no difficulty from an availability or affordability point of view of complying with this change to guidance,” he said.
“Currently the availability and affordability is a problem for nurses and midwives who are working at the centre of the risk so we can only imagine the difficulties this will now pose across society.
“This is a high risk strategy considering the annual pressure on hospitals in January and February and considering the current overcrowding and lack of inpatient beds for the next six weeks.”
The INMO called for detailed modelling on the impact this latest advice will have on the health service.
The organisation called for nurses and midwives to be briefed on what exactly is required of them, when patients are admitted for care in respect of isolation protocol in order to work safely over the next six weeks.
“Nurses and midwives have endured intense stress for almost two years as the pandemic has persisted and evolved with the emergence of new variants,” added Phil Ní Sheaghdha.
“Despite exhaustion, nurses and midwives continue to provide care to patients under extremely difficult conditions.”