Taoiseach: Using Cork's City Hall immediately as vaccination hub 'never the plan'

Micheál Martin said vaccination centres will be used to a "far greater extent" in quarter two of the year.
Taoiseach: Using Cork's City Hall immediately as vaccination hub 'never the plan'

Taoiseach Micheál Martin pictured on February 12 viewed ongoing work to transform part of Cork City Hall into a Covid-19 vaccination centre. Picture: Gerard McCarthy

The Taoiseach has said it was never intended that Cork's City Hall would be immediately used as a vaccination centre.

Work began to convert City Hall into one of 37 vaccination hubs across the country at the start of February, and Micheál Martin visited the centre on February 12.

He said vaccination centres will be used to a "far greater extent" in quarter two of the year.

"It's very, very important that we get ahead in terms of preparation and logistics, and that's the context in terms of the regional vaccination centres," he said.

Mr Martin denied that it had been misleading to hold a press event at the centre last month, saying: "It was very clear that these centres were being provided for more intense periods of vaccination."

The Taoiseach confirmed that he had yet to be vaccinated and will be "waiting in the queue" like everyone else. But he said he hopes that he will get the vaccine some time over the summer.

Mr Martin played down hopes that those who have been vaccinated would be subject to fewer restrictions, as he said this could have an impact on equality and civil liberties.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin visits the Ballybrit Vaccination Centre in Galway where the Covid-19 vaccine is currently being provided to healthcare workers. Picture: Aengus McMahon

Taoiseach Micheál Martin visits the Ballybrit Vaccination Centre in Galway where the Covid-19 vaccine is currently being provided to healthcare workers. Picture: Aengus McMahon

The European Union has decided that it will issue vaccination certs — however, Mr Martin said these are not vaccination passports and, at the moment, they would not provide people with greater rights to move about or mix with greater numbers of people socially.

"Over time, whether it evolves into something greater than that remains to be seen," he said. 

"The WHO wants it as a health passport, not as a passport to travel or anything, so that's a debate that's yet to be had."

Speaking at a vaccination centre at Galway Racecourse, Mr Martin said the vaccine programme will offer protection to the most vulnerable in our society.

"The hospital numbers are going down, the ICU numbers are going down, and the incidence rate is going down steadily," he said. 

"And that's thanks to the Irish people adhering to the guidelines. That's very tough, and it is very challenging for people. But it is yielding results."

He said the National Ambulance Service will now be used to vaccinate elderly people who are housebound and cannot attend their local GP surgery or a vaccination hub.

Asked about reports of house parties that have been organised by students, including in Limerick, Mr Martin said the vast majority of people are adhering to the guidelines.

"Let's not assume that all students are breaching guidelines," he said.

"But that I would say to those who aren't, we are now vaccinating your grandparents, we are vaccinating the most vulnerable in society.

“The easiest and simplest way to protect your grandparents or parents is to stick with this for a while longer ... If we spread the disease, we risk their health and their lives.”

Regarding the upcoming St Patrick's Day celebrations, Mr Martin said there is currently ongoing discussion between his officials and the White House over how the day will be marked this year.

Last month it was decided that the Taoiseach's annual trip to the White House would not go ahead, and virtual events would instead be organised with Mr Martin and US president Joe Biden.

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