Keeping vaccine certs as a requirement beyond October 22 'may help', says Harris

Keeping vaccine certs as a requirement beyond October 22 'may help', says Harris

Rising Covid-19 numbers have cast doubt on the October 22 reopening date, when nightclubs had been expected to resume business and other restrictions to be eased. Picture: Getty

The Government will be giving a lot of consideration in the coming days to ways in which reopening on October 22 could proceed in a safe way, according to Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris.

Rising Covid-19 numbers have cast doubt on the October 22 reopening date, when nightclubs had been expected to resume business and other restrictions to be eased.

"We obviously need to watch the data very closely over the next few days," Mr Harris said.

Industry has always, understandably, asked for decisions to be made quickly, he added.

"The Government has always wanted to temper that with making the right decision, and sometimes to make that right decision you do need to wait and see the data as to where the next few days go."

"I do think we are not in a binary position, of 'do we open or do we not open?' We've learnt a lot about the virus, and we've learnt a lot about how to keep each other safe, we have 90% of our population vaccinated."

"I think we should be asking more nuanced questions, of each other, of the Government, of public health [like] how can you safely open something and keep it open."

So, for example, on October 22 vaccine certs were due to no longer be required. Perhaps if they were to stay a little longer, that might provide a help."

"I don't think it's binary 'yes or no', I think we should challenge ourselves to look at it in a more nuanced way, to see if there are safe ways of opening up as intended to on October 22, and I know my colleagues in Government will be giving that a lot of consideration in the next few days."

Keeping schools open

Ensuring schools remain open will be the priority in any decision made on the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions next week, Norma Foley, the education minister, has said.

Paschal Donohoe, the finance minister, has said the wide-scale return of workers to the office from October 22 is now "a little less likely".

"We will have to make a final decision on that early next week," Mr Donohoe said. "We owe it to those who are considering coming back to the office to give clarity on it.

"We do know that when we go through big changes in mobility or activity within our society, it affects where we are with the disease," Mr Donohoe said, adding "what really matters to me, at the moment, is that the progress that we have made in our current level of opening, we don't have to reverse that."

Ms Foley said there was "acceptance" that education must be prioritised and called on people to heed the Covid-19 "alert" to ensure schools were not disrupted.

Given the unexpected spike in new cases and rising hospitalisations in recent days, Ms Foley said nightclubs and other venues would now have to wait until next week before a final decision is made by the Government.

"Every day of data matters, so it would be premature, at this point, to make a decision regarding October 22," Ms Foley said.

That 300,000 people who remain unvaccinated is a "cause for concern", she said.

"One thing we have learned about Covid is that it's a very fluid situation, and I think society has made enormous sacrifices for the benefit of education and, indeed, other sectors.

"The alert is being sounded now," Ms Foley said. "I do think we're aware that we need to be ever more vigilant, in terms of our social distance, in terms of our wearing of masks, hand hygiene, and vaccination, and all of that, and I believe society will heed the alert." 

Asked about the impact further increases in cases could have on schools, Ms Foley said: "It has been accepted by society, and supported by society, that schools are a priority for Government and that the education of our children and young people must be a priority."

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