Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said it will be the second quarter of 2021 when people start to see the differences with the vaccine rollout.
Speaking at a private meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, he said with vaccines to be administered in two doses, each a month apart, it will only be after the second vaccine that people will start to see the benefits, the meeting heard.
Mr Varadkar said there is a real possibility that we can start vaccinating before the new year with nursing home residents and healthcare workers, in contact with patients, the first to receive it.
A motion, tabled by Fine Gael’s health spokesperson Colm Burke, was passed unanimously at the meeting.
At his party meeting, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government’s policies on Covid-19 have allowed a reopening of society before Christmas in the context of retail, hospitality, and intercounty travel for Christmas Day.
“We need to keep an eye on the numbers. A number of EU countries are closing down before with exponential growth like in Netherlands and Germany. The numbers are very high in Northern Ireland and there's serious impact on hospital system there,” he said.
Mr Martin said people have adhered very strongly to guidelines. “We need to continue to protect the elderly and vulnerable over the Christmas period,” he said.
He said a small volume of the vaccine could be available in December and the Government’s taskforce has planned the logistical operation and rollout when it becomes available.
On the controversial Canadian trade deal, Mr Martin said it is about expanding trade and exports for small and medium businesses.
He said it is “at the heart of our identity for Fianna Fáil”.
“We are a party of multilateralism and trade. We are a party that opened up this country and we pioneered the country as an outward-looking country away from an insular and protectionist economy. Lemass removed tariffs from goods and services before we entered the EU to support jobs, small and medium businesses,” he said.
Mr Martin said Green Party leader Eamon Ryan is “supporting and advocating” for the deal which has been in operation since 2017.
A number of his TDs, however, challenged the decision to postpone the passage of the Ceta bill. Galway TD Eamon Ó Cuiv said Fianna Fáil “gave in” to the Greens on the bill, saying: “We messed up this week by trying to rush through Ceta,” he said.
Mr Varadkar told his TDs and Senators that the Government “had to sign off” on the Ceta trade agreement with Canada.
He said the programme for government states it would support new and existing trade deals. He argued that such agreements benefit the country’s enterprise, investment and business.
On Brexit, Mr Martin said he “is more hopeful” this week.
He told his TDs there’s a pathway on the level playing field but the fisheries issue is challenging presently. He said the country and economy will take an enormous hit if there is a no-deal Brexit.