Home News Community Taoiseach announces Ireland’s next steps in Covid pandemic

Taoiseach announces Ireland’s next steps in Covid pandemic

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has laid out Ireland’s plans to lift Covid restrictions this week.

Mr Martin confirmed a series of restrictions will be lifted on Friday, but with current measures remaining in place until February 2022.

Mr Martin said that a booster vaccine programme for people aged 60 and over would begin “immediately”, following a recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).

“Over the course of the last two weeks we have seen a worsening of the Covid situation,” Mr Martin added.

“These figures are a cause of concern and a timely reminder of how dangerous this virus is.”

The Irish Government had hoped to see the lifting of the vast majority of Covid-19 restrictions from October 22.

Instead, many restrictions will remain in place as senior politicians warned that the country will need to live with the virus for another winter.

Mr Martin rejected suggestions that the Government’s approach was defined by the fragile state of the Irish health system.

“The idea that this is about hospitals alone is not correct,” Mr Martin said.

He insisted that all health systems across Europe have been forced to grapple with the virus.

“Different countries have different situations, due to social behaviour – how we congregate, where we socialise,” Mr Martin suggested.

- Advertisement -

A Covid-19 vaccine certificate will still be required for indoor hospitality and events in Ireland, while the use of face masks and social distancing will remain in placer until 2022.

The announcement means that while nightclubs will be allowed return in the coming days, various restrictions will remain in place when they re-open.

Religious services and weddings will now be allowed to proceed without any limits on capacity, while the return to workplaces will continue on a “phased and cautious” basis.

“Government has made its decision in relation to Nphet (National Public Health Emergency Team) advice,” Mr Martin said.

“All of the progress made to date remains in place.

“In line with Nphet advice, those sectors due to open on Friday may only do so on the basis that all customers produce evidence of a Covid pass.

“To stay open we need everyone to enforce the rule.

“Table service only will remain in place with a maximum of ten adults.

“Fixed capacity will no longer apply to outdoor activities, though protective measures must remain in place.

“Religious services and weddings can proceed as planned without capacity limits.

The Citywest Covid-19 Vaccination Centre in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

“We have also agreed to an enhanced role for antigen testing.”

Mr Martin said that the Government’s rapid testing expert advisory group will provide a recommendation on the use of voluntary self-testing by asymptomatic individuals who plan to attend risky activities, such as nightclubs.

Antigen tests will also be used for fully vaccinated people who are close contacts and have no symptoms.

Micheal Martin added: “The progress we have made together is real and it has to be protected.

“The changes we have made gives us the space to make sure that the next steps we take is safe.

“If you are indoors with other people, wear a mask.

“If you are running a business that is bringing people indoors, check for vaccination certs.

“If you have not been vaccinated or had a second vaccination, please make arrangement to get fully vaccinated.

“It is safe and it is free.”

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has said that some of the details in Tuesday’s announcement would be a “disappointment” to certain people and industries.

Mr Varadkar said: “The pandemic isn’t over yet.

“We’re going to have get through at least another winter before we can say it’s behind us.”

He told reporters at the post-Cabinet briefing: “We’re not where we hoped to be or expected to be for October 22.”

Mr Varadkar said that Nphet expected Covid-19 cases to peak at the end of October, with ICU numbers peaking at around 150 by the end of November.

Mr Varadkar told reporters that Nphet had considered recommending a full pause of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

He said the medical advisory body had ultimately recommended against such a course of action because the Covid-19 situation would not change in the next number of weeks.

“We are going to have to live with Covid.

“It won’t be easy,” Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Martin, facing questions from reporters, accepted that the return of nightclubs would result in some “anomalies”.

While he declined to be drawn on the detail of how nightclubs would re-open and operate, he said: “What traditionally happens in a nightclub will continue to happen in a nightclub.”

Government guidance, published on Tuesday, says that “specific sectoral guidance will be developed for nightclubs setting out appropriate protective measures”.

Among the other changes to the rules are the lifting of limits on the number of people able to attend outdoor events.

However, like other sectors, the Government says that “protective measures” must be in place.

Table service will remain in the hospitality sector, while all indoor live music, drama and entertainment will be fully seated.

“There are always going to be anomalies, unless you go for one extreme or the other,” Mr Varadkar insisted.

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that it was the right decision to proceed with caution in the coming weeks.

He said the Government had decided “not to pause, but proceed with caution”.

Mr Ryan said that “personal responsibility” would be important during the winter, but also said that “sectoral responsibility” would be a vital element of the country’s pandemic response.

In a statement on Tuesday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that the extension of the booster programme to those aged between 60 and 79 would begin as soon as possible.

“NIAC have reviewed international evidence specifically relating to vaccine efficacy in older individuals that indicated that the protection provided by vaccines against symptomatic infection substantially decreases over time in this age group after six months,” he said in a statement.

No decision has yet been made on whether to provider booster jabs to healthcare workers.

On Tuesday, a further 2,399 cases of Covid-19 were recorded in Ireland.

There are currently 473 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 74 are in intensive care.

- Advertisement -