Taoiseach: 'Six weeks to gauge further loosening of restrictions'

Micheál Martin hailed Ireland's "Olympian" efforts in vaccinations, and said as uptake remains to be high, it could mean restrictions are lifted sooner
Taoiseach: 'Six weeks to gauge further loosening of restrictions'

Taoiseach Micheál Martin visited Swords Vaccination Centre, Co Dublin, for a tour and an update on the progress of the vaccination programme. Picture: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Taoiseach Micheál Martin says the Government will reassess in six weeks whether more Covid-19 restrictions can be loosened.

Mr Martin said he is "cautiously positive" about Ireland's fight against Covid-19 after chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said yesterday such steps “may not be far away” as vaccinations continue to roll out.

"Nothing can be taken for granted," the Taoiseach said on Thursday.

"Over the next number of weeks we will monitor this, during August there will be three Covid cabinet subcommittee meetings," Mr Martin said.

"We will engage on public health advice when forming a view as to how we move forward then in September."

The Taoiseach added there are "still unknowns out there and uncertainties" in respect of the Delta variant, "so we've got to watch that".

"We're going to keep a close eye on the linkage between cases, hospitalisation, and the impact on health services because the restoration of health services, is a very important aspect of restoring society. 

"We are witnessing in the middle of summer, significant activity levels — outside of Covid — in our hospitals, which I think is a reflection of the fact that there were delayed attendances, and delayed diagnosis in the earlier phases of pandemic."

The protection of the health system is a very important societal objective in all of this.

"I think the Government agreed that we would analyse what happens in August, reflect and monitor," Mr Martin said.

"The message I want to give to people is that the way to deal with this Delta variant is the vaccination programme, and that's going to ramp up again throughout August, so it gives us more choices, but parallel with that has to be behaviour. I think it's steady as she goes."

Mr Martin hailed Ireland's "Olympian" efforts in vaccinations, and said as uptake remains to be high, it could mean restrictions are lifted sooner.

"I think the effort of our vaccination teams has been superb across the country," he said.

"The key objective here is to get through Covid-19, to protect people, I never lose sight of the fundamental.

"Just doing the right thing by the people of Ireland, I'm the Taoiseach of the country, I take the responsibility seriously, as do my colleagues.

I'm cautiously positive about where things are right now. I'm very conscious in other countries months ago, leaders declared victory over Covid.

Mr Martin said there will be a programme for booster vaccines next year, with Ireland pre-purchasing the jabs with EU.

"Pandemics don't end on a sort of a designated freedom day," the Taoiseach added.

"Hopefully it would peter out or we will adapt to live with this particular virus, and then we'll have enough tools at our disposal to deal with it, like we do with the flu, and that's ultimately where you want to end up, and where society ends up reopened."

When asked whether more spectators would be allowed to Croke Park for the All-Ireland final, Mr Martin joked that it would "depend on whether Cork got through".

Super Junior Minister Jack Chambers is expected to make a further announcement on crowds at sporting events in the coming weeks.

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