Taoiseach Micheál Martin has raised the possibility of indoor pints in Ireland and holiday travel within Europe later in the summer if the risks associated with Covid-19 are low enough.
Speaking to Newstalk on Friday morning, Mr Martin said it might be possible to have an indoor pint by late July, depending on the extent of vaccination and case numbers.
Asked if fans could have an indoor pint and then go to the All Ireland final [in August], he said: “It’s a possibility. I do not want to be nailing my colours to the mast [but] by that time there will be a significant number of vaccinations,” he said.
Travel within Europe might be possible later in the summer, but that would depend on infection levels. Ireland could not stay disconnected forever, he said.
Mr Martin said the State would sign up to the EU's vaccine passport scheme and was examining the technology required to implement it.
In a separate interview with RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Martin said the Government would not be afraid to intervene and change the plan for easing Covid restrictions if worrying trends emerge.
However, he said he was hopeful the plan to reopen society throughout May and June could happen without interruption.
“I’m hopeful, I believe that we can reopen safely, we’re in a good space, we will not be afraid to intervene if necessary,” he said.
The reopening plans included strong sectoral guidance, but Mr Martin said that individual and collective behaviour were key to the success of the plan, which the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) had categorised as low to medium risk.
The key metric was to avoid overwhelming the health service and the vaccination programme had greatly assisted in that ambition, he said.
When asked about the possibility of regional restrictions if numbers increased, the Taoiseach said Nphet had advised a clear national approach, but county-by-county action was possible if necessary.
Mr Martin said the hospitality sector had been devastated by the pandemic, but businesses should now start to prepare for reopening. Grants and assistance are available to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking, though he acknowledged “situations like this are never optimal.”
Dining indoors was considered high risk by Nphet and this had been indicated by international advice, he added.
There would be no cliff edge to end supports and there would be measures other than VAT reduction and tax relief, he said.
The issue of weddings was of concern to Mr Martin as it was “a very tough regime on people wanting to get married”. He said he found it difficult to comprehend how people were planning a wedding at the moment. It was an area that he hoped would be more flexible in the future.
The return of inter-county travel would have to be done responsibly, he said. He knew it had been a very long and very tough lockdown.
“We have to do it [ease restrictions] responsibly, and we've to do it always very attentive to how deadly this virus is and how transmissible it is.”
The vaccine rollout would “stick” to the age system with the aim to get the jab into as many people as quickly as possible. There could be parallel vaccinations as the volume of vaccines arrived, the HSE would give a refreshed programme early next week, he said.
People could not be offered a choice of vaccine, that would be mayhem, he said.
The option was to take a safe vaccine now, if people did not “then we’ll see what we can do with further supplies.”