Health Minister 'inspires less public confidence' every time he speaks about vaccine rollout

Senior government source accuses health minister of 'spinning' after he claims commitment to have entire country vaccinated by September was 'highly caveated'
Health Minister 'inspires less public confidence' every time he speaks about vaccine rollout

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said his recent commitments to the rollout of vaccines to all residents by September was 'heavily caveated'. Picture: Julien Behal

The health minister has been accused of causing further confusion around the rollout of vaccines after he claimed he never promised to have the entire country vaccinated by September.

Stephen Donnelly said his recent commitments to the rollout of vaccines to all residents "wasn't a promise" as it was "heavily caveated" based on the schedule of advanced purchase.

But he added: "I said September, September is absolutely still the aspiration."

In an interview with RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne show, Mr Donnelly then asked to "rephrase" his answer, stating: "If the vaccines come through that we have advanced purchases for, they're authorised and if they come in on schedule, then it is reasonable to think that by September every adult could be vaccinated, but with all of those is very serious caveats."

One senior Government source later said Mr Donnelly had created more confusion and accused him of "spinning" and "trying to put a gloss" on the situation when he should be "levelling with people".

It does seem that every time he speaks he inspires less public confidence.

Mr Donnelly also admitted that many of the new restrictions approved by the Cabinet this week have yet to be hammered out and are simply an "outline" of plans.

It is understood that a number of ministers raised concerns around the lack of clarity and detail provided on new Covid measures during a lengthy Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning.

Mr Donnelly said the plan up to March 5 is a continuation of level 5 lockdown restrictions and after that he hopes to ramp up the vaccination programme, despite major setbacks to the supply of the AstraZenca vaccines.

When it was suggested that many of the measures announced this week, including a partial move to mandatory quarantining, had not been fully designed, Mr Donnelly said: "Well, some of it is an outline but there's a lot that isn't just an outline.

"So for example, we're immediately suspending visa programs with South Africa and Brazil, that is essentially a travel ban on South Africa and Brazil, we'll be bringing that in this week."

Mr Donnelly also admitted that the Government cannot instruct airlines to stop people getting on flights without a PCR test.

"We can't legislate for what happens in Lisbon or in the other countries but we are working with the carriers to say it is our strong preference that you refuse entry, and so very few people are arriving without the PCR test."

I'm told it's about 1% who are arriving without it.

Earlier, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said the Government had sought advice from Nphet on zero Covid measures but they were viewed as "not realistic or achievable".

Mr McGrath said the Government is working to "suppress the transmission of the virus" to get the numbers low and then to keep them low.

However, Mr Donnelly said the measures signed off on by Cabinet are almost the same as a zero Covid.

"I've met some of the people who advocated for it and we've shared ideas, and I think there's a lot of sense to a lot of what's being said.

"If you look at what we've just introduced, and you line it up side by side with the zero Covid ist of border controls, there's really not that much difference anymore," he said.

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