Professor of Immunology at Dublin City University (DCU) DR Christine Loscher has expressed concern about a "blanket" easing of close contact requirements.
Under new advice to the Government from Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, close contacts who are fully boosted and have no symptoms will no longer have to restrict their movements.
The health minister will be bringing that advice to a Cabinet meeting today. Close contacts who do not have the booster vaccine will have to restrict their movement for seven days and all positive cases will need to isolate for seven days.
She told Newstalk Breakfast that her understanding of the ECDC recommendations about close contact rules was in relation to the workplace and was an effort to address staff shortages and protect the healthcare system.
Prof Loscher said she understood the need to change the rules with regard to the workplace especially for essential services, but she said she was concerned because the Omicron variant was much more transmissible and she would not like to see the change have an impact on case numbers.
Antigen tests would be crucial “if this is the way to go,” she said, adding that a test would need to be done every day.
There was not yet information on how many close contacts had turned into cases, what percentage and in what settings. That was important, she said.
Every single public health decision to date had been made on the basis of scientific evidence, she said.
“That does not seem to have happened here.”
Meanwhile, ministers will also discuss changes in the use of antigen tests, in an effort to reduce pressure on PCR testing capacity.
Someone with a positive antigen test result will no longer need to get a PCR test to confirm their infection.
By Friday, those with positive antigen test results will be able to record their infection status on the HSE website.
Liam Fanning, Professor of Immunovirology at UCC, says greater recognition of antigen tests is a positive step forward.
"I suppose it's a bit late, it's a pity we didn't have this infrastructure last May," Prof Fanning said.
"Nonetheless, it's extremely welcome news and I think it will facilitate a lot of individuals and taking responsibility for the infection and managing it within the public health guidelines and protecting themselves and others."