The government is working to put in place a rapid response plan to any signs that the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic is worsening.
This will include redeploying testing and tracing, accelerating vaccine deployment and contingency plans to put in place short-term public health measures.
The contingency plan would be used if a new variant emerges, or if the country is hit by a new wave of the virus.
the Irish Independent understands that it does not include any plans for restrictions or lockdowns, but rather indicates how Covid-19 can be dealt with in the long term.
Although the National Immunization Advisory Committee (Niac) has not clearly expressed its views on a fourth dose for the general population, plans call for the redeployment of staff to vaccination centers in the short term.
The Cabinet decided this week to end free mass testing for healthy people aged under 55.
The plans will also streamline government organizational structures from the end of this year into next year.
Sources said this was to avoid a “hustle and bustle” in the event of a new variant of Covid-19 or a significant spike in cases or hospitalizations.
The pandemic was managed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), a watchdog group from the Taoiseach and Niac department.
A senior government source said a “more integrated” structure would be put in place instead.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has already called for Nphet to be disbanded and it is believed that a smaller scale team will be set up which will have a pandemic monitoring and surveillance role.
A senior source said it would be done through Dr Holohan’s office. However, if a separate group is to be set up to replace Nphet, it is believed that it will take a few weeks to be fully formed.
A separate government source said the new group would not be ‘Nphet 2.0’.
Dr Holohan is believed to have a positive view of the pandemic as legal requirements for wearing masks are scrapped on Monday.
Rapid response plans will be finalized at next week’s cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19, which will meet on Monday and will include Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly, Minister of Finance Paschal Donohoe and the Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform. Michael McGrath.
The Taoiseach told a private meeting of his parliamentary party earlier this week that the government was moving from an “emergency phase” to a “transition phase” to deal with the pandemic.
TDs and senators heard how Minister Donnelly is working on a new plan to deal with the pandemic, and Mr Martin said the government will continue to “strengthen” public health infrastructure.