Stephen Donnelly believes all remaining restrictions will be lifted before Christmas

Stephen Donnelly believes all remaining restrictions will be lifted before Christmas

Stephen Donnelly went to the Croke Park testing centre this morning to show his appreciation to staff working in the centres. File photo: Brian Lawless/PA

The Health Minister believes the lifting of all remaining Covid-19 restrictions on sectors will happen before Christmas.

Stephen Donnelly went to the Croke Park testing centre this morning to show his appreciation to staff working in the centres. He said although Ireland's case number rate is the third highest in Europe, the view within government is to reopen all of society before the end of the year.

"Certainly the view would be that we would be open this calendar year," he said. "What we'd like is the lifting of all restrictions as soon as possible.

"We may get public health advice to keep some restrictions for some time - should we wear masks? Should we continue to wash our hands and do all of that? The public health advice will be the basics we want to keep doing.

"What we want to do is provide real certainty. It's been a brutal year and a half, most of society and the economy is open. We are aware there are some who aren't and have suffered hugely and we want to open them as quickly as possible and when they do open, stay open and give them clarity as to when that can happen.

I can see very clearly the frustration from the live events sector. 

"They're looking at Croke Park and saying 'surely there is room for live events' and we need to do everything we can to make that happen.

"Their ask is very reasonable, and is there room now to increase outdoor music events."

Mr Donnelly confirmed he will not be attending a meeting with the live events sector but his officials will attend.

He added that the scenes from Croke Park's All-Ireland Hurling Final on Sunday showed it was "well organised" but the "public health concerns are around what happens before and after events and I was concerned about the footage I saw after the event, people close together without masks".

"The message is, for the people going to them, please don't let your guard down, especially if you're not fully vaccinated," he said.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will meet tomorrow, before a full cabinet meeting on Tuesday, and Mr Donnelly says "critically, what people are saying is that when they do open, they're able to stay open".

"Nphet are meeting tomorrow and let's see what they have to say. The end very much needs to be in sight," he added.

"We have a high rate and it is as dangerous now as it was when it arrived. We need not to let our guard down just yet."

Vaccines

Meanwhile, almost 86% of the adult population is now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the head of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

In a tweet this morning, HSE CEO Paul Reid said that, in total, over 6.64m vaccine doses had been administered in Ireland, and that over 91% of adults were now partially vaccinated.

Mr Reid said some 144,000 12-15-year-olds had now been registered for a Covid jab, and that 88,000 doses had now been administered to this cohort.

As of this morning, there were 307 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, 60 of whom were in intensive care.

Mr Reid said hospitalisations were still the HSE’s "focus of concern."

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