PUBLIC health restrictions will still be necessary as Ireland’s vaccination programme continues to be rolled out to ensure the country emerges “cautiously, sensibly and in a sustainable way into the future,” the Taoiseach has said.
Micheál Martin made the comments while at the Páirc Uí Chaoimh vaccination centre yesterday to receive his second Covid vaccine.
Speaking at the centre he expressed concern over the Delta variant and added that he is fearful of a “spillover” effect in terms of Covid cases being imported from the United Kingdom.
“It would worry me, yes, in terms of the spillover effect.
“They [the UK] are ahead of us in terms of vaccination but nonetheless when I spoke to the Scottish First Minister she was very clear to me the degree to which the Delta variant, to use her phrase, ‘rips through the unvaccinated population’.
“I would make the point that Covid is still something we should be endeavouring to prevent people from getting and having a very laissez-faire attitude to it can accelerate the spread of the virus which can damage people’s health,” he said.
“I think the balance of vaccination with restrictions, even though we’ve removed quite a number of restrictions, there still needs to be public health restrictions to some degree to balance all of this and to ensure we emerge cautiously, sensibly and in a sustainable way into the future,” he added.
Speaking in relation to the resumption of indoor hospitality, Mr Martin was steadfast that Government will have a plan ready for July 19.
“We said we’ll have a plan by the 19th and we will,” he said.
The Taoiseach would not be drawn on exactly when indoor hospitality will be permitted to reopen to those who are fully vaccinated and those who have recovered from Covid.
“Nothing has been set in stone in terms of a date yet because we have to decide that at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday but we are endeavouring to facilitate the reopening of indoor hospitality in line with the NPHET advice we have received.
“We will introduce in the Dáil next week primary legislation which will give us the framework to bring in the policy decisions that we take on Tuesday in terms of the reopening of indoor hospitality.
“I think it’s important for that sector – it’s been under huge pressure because of Covid-19.”
After receiving his second Covid vaccine the Taoiseach paid tribute to the staff at the vaccination centre.
“By Monday they will have 100,000 vaccines administered and in City Hall likewise and I think it reflects the efficiency and effectiveness of the HSE South’s delivery of the vaccination programme,” he added.
Mr Martin again moved to urge people to avail of the vaccine.
“It offers the best protection against Covid-19.
“The vaccines are safe, they’ve gone through the authorising bodies and agencies,” he said.
To date, he said there has been high levels of vaccine uptake.
“So far from the Irish perspective, we’re up there at the top of the table with Denmark in respect of vaccine uptake for the various age cohorts, which is very, very positive in terms of giving us really strong protection.”
When questioned if he envisages any leadership issues arising from the performance of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in the Dublin Bay South by-election, the Taoiseach said “not at all”.
He answered “absolutely” when asked if he was confident of his position as leader of the country.
It came as Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan cast doubt on Micheál Martin’s leadership following the party’s disastrous result in the by-election.
Asked if the Taoiseach should lead Fianna Fail into the next election, were it to go ahead as planned in 2025, Mr O’Callaghan replied: “We’ll have to think about that.”
Yesterday Mr Martin said canvassing during the campaign was very positive and that the party, as well as him, personally were well received.
He added that “Government’s rarely win bye-elections”.
“They’re not in any way markers for general elections,” he added.