Micheál Martin: Strict restrictions could remain in place for first half of year 

Micheál Martin: Strict restrictions could remain in place for first half of year 

Micheál Martin said new cases of Covid-19 may need to be as low as 100-200 before restrictions can be relaxed, adding that his concern is the new UK variant.

Ireland's strict Covid-19 restrictions could remain in place for the first half of the year, the Taoiseach has said.

Micheál Martin said new cases of Covid-19 may need to be as low as 100-200 before restrictions can be relaxed, adding that his concern is the new UK variant.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 Mr Martin said: "It will become the dominant variant here. It is at 62% of all cases. It transmits more easily.

"If we have mass mobilisation and mass socialisation it will spread again.

"I think with the vaccines coming, there's an argument to be cautious and conservative now for the first half of this year, until we roll out the vaccines.

"We will be witnessing far more prolonged restrictions than we have to date."

The Taoiseach and the UK Prime Minister have discussed the latest research suggesting the Kent coronavirus variant may be more deadly than the original.

Micheal Martin spoke with Boris Johnson about the matter after Mr Johnson announced that the UK variant may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 on Saturday the Irish premier said Mr Johnson was "worried".

Mr Martin said: "I just asked him, what's his sense of it in terms of of the research. He said: 'They are going to do more research on that.'

"He's worried about a variant.

"'There's something going on out there,' is what a lay person would say."

Micheal Martin said that vaccinations for over-70s in Ireland may be delayed due to potential supply issues with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The British company has warned that its supplies of the vaccine to Europe will be lower than originally anticipated due to production issues.

Mr Martin told RTÉ Radio 1 on Saturday: "I expect some very robust meetings in the coming days and engagements between the European Commission and AstraZeneca.

"AstraZeneca combined with extra volumes of Pfizer/BioNTech was going to be the catalyst for us to move from a low level of administration of vaccine to a mass vaccination situation," he added.

Mr Martin said April, May and June were going to be "key months" in terms of the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines but that "the over-70s will be delayed because of AstraZeneca".

Despite the issue the Fianna Fáil leader said the Government still aims to be in a mass vaccination scenario by the end of June.

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