'We're not letting rip for the summer': Taoiseach says Government 'moving cautiously' on re-opening

'We're not letting rip for the summer': Taoiseach says Government 'moving cautiously' on re-opening

The Taoiseach has said he wants to ensure that when society reopens after the latest coronavirus lockdown, it stays open. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Taoiseach has said he wants to ensure that when society reopens after the latest coronavirus lockdown, it stays open.

Micheal Martin said he does not want to see any more “stop/start” closures in the battle against Covid-19.

He added that outdoors will be the theme for this summer.

From tomorrow, non-contact outdoor sports activities, such as golf and tennis, can resume, outdoor visitor attractions, such as zoos, wildlife parks and pet farms, can reopen, and the maximum attendance at funerals will be increased to 25.

“That outdoor theme is critical because we know that outdoor is less harmful in the context of the spread of this virus than indoor,” Mr Martin told RTÉ’s The Week In Politics programme.

“I can understand that hospitality sector livelihoods are at stake, it’s been devastated as a result of this pandemic, but anything we open now, we want to keep open.

“We want to end this start/stop close and many people in different sectors have said that to us.” 

Mr Martin said the Government’s strategy is working in terms of controlling the virus.

He said the next reopenings to be considered include outdoor sports, non-essential retail, hairdressing salons and religious services.

“We’re going to examine that for May and we hopefully will be able to do something on that in terms of May,” he said.

“But we understand the danger of indoor.

“For the summer, I think that outdoor has to be the theme.

'Moving cautiously'

“We just need to keep the pressure on this virus as we vaccinate … because the impact of the vaccines is transformative in terms of reducing mortality, reducing severe illness and indeed transmission as well.”

He added: “We are moving cautiously and we’re not letting rip for the summer. There are risks attached to decisions that we take, we have to balance this.

“It’s about doing the right thing to protect the Irish people, even if it makes for short-term unpopularity.

“It’s a very long lockdown, it’s been very tough on people, but we had to get the numbers down and we have.

“We have taken the pressure off the hospital systems, which was a key target of ours. We have reduced the virus but it still is at levels that would be concerning if there was any significant increase.”

J&J vaccine 

Mr Martin was also quizzed about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Ireland is waiting for approval of that jab by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).

The Taoiseach described it as a “very important vaccine”.

He said NIAC can benefit from examination of the Johnson & Johnson jab in the United States and Europe.

“It is reading and assessing all of that data prior to making its decision, and engaging with the chief medical officer,” he said, adding that Pfizer and BioNTech are increasing vaccine supplies into the country.

Another 160,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab are also due to arrive in Ireland this week.

Mr Martin, 60, said he will be registering for an AstraZeneca vaccination when permitted according to his age this week.

“I am looking to doing that and getting that vaccine whenever the date arrives,” he said.

“The evidence is strong in relation to AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson that the benefits outweigh the risks.”

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