'Still too soon to allow vaccinated gather without masks', according to Nphet 

People in the US who have been vaccinated can now gather indoors without masks, and Ireland could follow suit, but only as the vaccine rollout ramps up, says Dr Ronan Glynn
'Still too soon to allow vaccinated gather without masks', according to Nphet 

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the first people in Ireland to benefit from a loosening of restrictions due to vaccinations will be nursing homes residents. Pictue: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Fully-vaccinated Americans can now gather indoors without masks, and a similar plan could follow for Ireland, said deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn.

It is, however, he said, too soon in the Irish vaccine rollout to focus on this.

According to Our World in Data, 9.3% of the population of the United States is now fully vaccinated. This compares to just 3% in Ireland.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States announced new guidance yesterday recommending that fully-vaccinated people can now safely gather indoors without social distancing.

'With more and more people vaccinated each day, we are starting to turn a corner,' said Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued new guidance to vaccinated people in the US yesterday. 	Picture: CDC
'With more and more people vaccinated each day, we are starting to turn a corner,' said Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued new guidance to vaccinated people in the US yesterday. Picture: CDC

It also said that vaccinated people can come together in a single household with people considered at low risk for severe disease. This includes vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren.

When Dr Glynn was asked about this at a Nphet press briefing yesterday, he said he was aware of the changes in the US.

“We are looking at that and we will be considering it further in the context of the advice we give to Government going into the next easing, and what will hopefully be the next easing of measures,” he said.

Nursing homes

The first people in Ireland, he said, to benefit from a loosening of restrictions due to vaccinations will be nursing homes residents.

“Obviously we are looking specifically at the issue of nursing home visitations this week,” he said.

The Nphet meeting on Thursday will discuss new guidelines for visiting nursing homes, with a change to guidelines expected soon after.

Under Ireland's vaccination rollout, some segments of society such as elderly people, or those with vulnerabilities, will be vaccinated months before younger people. This means some groups will be safe to mix with each other, but not widely in society.

However, Dr Glynn hopes that studies from the US, the UK, and Israel, where vaccination rates are high, will influence Irish decision-making.

Positive signs

He said: “All of the evidence we are getting is very positive, these vaccines are really good. They are likely to have a significant impact on transmission. But we’re still learning about this, and as we learn over the coming weeks, hopefully we will be able to give more and more certainty.” 

The American guidance is designed to address a growing demand.

"With more and more people vaccinated each day, we are starting to turn a corner," said CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky.

During a press briefing yesterday, she called the guidance a "first step" towards restoring normality in how people come together.

Cautious approach

She said more activities would be cleared for vaccinated individuals once caseloads and deaths decline, and more Americans are vaccinated, and as more science emerges on the ability of those who have been vaccinated to get and spread the virus.

The CDC is continuing to recommend that fully-vaccinated people still wear well-fitted masks, avoid large gatherings, and physically distance themselves from others when out in public.

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