UK should offer Republic Covid vaccines when it has surplus, says Foster

Northern Ireland’s First Minister said the vaccination rate in the Republic has an ‘impact’ as neighbours.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill (Liam McBurney/PA)

“It’s the right thing to do, it’s the good thing to do. It’s responding to a global pandemic, and we are all in this together, so we need to work together in order to protect our people. I would like to see a lot more co-operation as we come out of this period and into the future.”

Mr Swann said offering vaccine surplus to the Republic of Ireland was the “right thing to do”.

“My responsibility is to the people of Northern Ireland so, as of our operation here today, my key aim is to get as many people in Northern Ireland vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he said.

“We hope to have everyone receive their first vaccination by the end of July.

“In the Republic of Ireland, I’ve heard the Taoiseach say they hope to catch up in a couple of weeks or a month’s time, so that’s something we would like to see.”

He described the difference in vaccine rates as “simply down to supply chains”.

“We’re part of the UK pre-bought programme which bought into seven different vaccine sources even before they had been authorised, and the Republic has tied in with the European Union’s vaccine purchasing programme, and we’re seeing the challenges that has brought, but we’re also hopeful that any difficulties between the UK and EU or Oxford/AstraZeneca will be ironed out and ironed out very soon, because this shouldn’t be about politics, this is about public health,” he said.

There were reports in a Sunday newspaper that UK ministers were working up plans to share 3.7 million doses with the Republic.

Speaking at the weekend, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said: "There isn’t an offer that I’m aware of, or that the Government’s aware of, from the UK".

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