The easing of most remaining restrictions on October 22nd is in doubt, with a key public health adviser describing the situation as “on a knife edge” amid rising infections and hospital admissions.
However, the Taoiseach this afternoon said rising numbers needed to be kept in “perspective”, while the Minister for Health said the reintroduction of restrictions had not been discussed in Government.
Minister Stephen Donnelly said it was “too early” to say if the planned easing of restrictions for just over a week’s time will proceed, as the Government awaits advice from public health officials next week.
“I can’t pre-empt the public health advice, but I would say to you that there has never been any consideration of going backwards,” he said.
“That really is a matter for Government, it’s a matter for the advice we get from Nphet and from the public health experts, but there certainly has never been any discussion around things like reintroducing measures.”
Boosters to bring increase ‘under control’
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government would take Ireland’s high rate of vaccination into account when evaluating rising case numbers.
“We have to keep it in perspective. Up to 92 per cent of people [aged 18 or older] are fully vaccinated, we’re close to 90 [per cent of] over 12s, and that is giving very significant protection to people,” Mr Martin said.
“So we’re not like the situation we were last year. And also, the booster [vaccine] campaign has now started.”
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar this afternoon said that the use of booster vaccines could bring a rapid increase in Covid cases under control again.
Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that if everyone was fully vaccinated there would be “no question” about easing restrictions, according to The Irish Times.
He said no decisions had been made on the planned easing of restrictions on October 22nd but that the Cabinet would decide probably on Monday or Tuesday, by which time more data will be available.
“Israel, which saw a return of Delta, got its numbers down and under control again through an extensive booster programme,” said Mr Varadkar.
“The case for something like that is stronger than ever.”
Ireland’s booster programme has begun with the administration of a third vaccine shot to those over 65 in residential care settings, those over 80 in the community and those with underlying conditions.
Mr Varadkar said Government was waiting on advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) regarding a wider booster programme.
He told Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell, who raised the issue, that in relation to those who are not yet vaccinated “vaccines are still available and vaccine centres are still open”.
If everyone in Ireland was fully vaccinated, we would probably have approximately 25 people in ICU
Covid: Delaying reopening will not change minds of…
He said: “It is a personal choice, but the truth is that, if everyone in Ireland was fully vaccinated, we would probably have approximately 25 people in ICU and 200 in hospital overall today, and there would be no question about easing restrictions on 22 October. It is a personal choice, but it has an impact on other people.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has suggested an extension of the digital Covid certificate beyond October 22nd as a possible way of society fully reopening.
Mr Harris said under the current proposals, the use of digital certificates was no longer required after the ending of restrictions on venues, such as nightclubs, from the end of next week.
“We are not in this binary position of do we open or not to open. We have learned a lot about the virus and learned a lot about how to keep us safe. We have a huge amount of our people vaccinated,” he said.