By Rebecca Black, PA
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has pointed towards a return to normality for the country by late summer.
Mr Varadkar said he would hope to see the “vast majority” of Covid-19 restrictions removed by August and a “normal Christmas”.
However, the Tánaiste warned that nothing can be promised when it comes to a new virus, and he said he believes restrictions on international travel and gatherings indoors will continue into the autumn.
Mr Varadkar was quizzed around restrictions at the launch of a minimum pricing for alcohol policy at the Department of Health in Dublin on Wednesday.
He said case numbers are stable and hospital and intensive care numbers are falling, adding if he was working in hospitality he would be planning for outdoor dining in June and indoor dining by July.
“What I am looking at very closely is what is happening in countries that are a bit ahead of us in terms of vaccination, the United Kingdom and Israel, and life in Israel is pretty much back to normal, they’re welcoming tourists again and they’re having not very large gatherings, but they are having mass gatherings,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said he would hope to see the “vast majority of restrictions gone” by August.
“Kids going back to school as normal in September, college happening on campus, all those things and a pretty normal Christmas in terms of seeing our friends and relations,” he said.
“But nobody can promise that. This is a new virus which is only around a year or so and the vaccines aren’t even around a year.
“It’s possible that the efficacy of the vaccines could wear off after a certain point in time, we don’t know what might happen in terms of variants that may be vaccine resistant and we don’t know what will happen when the winter comes.
“I think we have to get through another winter to be sure, but I do think life would be pretty much normal in August and September, but not exactly normal. I think there will still be restrictions around international travel and mass gatherings, particularly indoors. That’s my best guess.”
The vaccination programme is continuing with those in long-term residential care and health workers currently receiving their second dose, as well as the over-70s, 65-69 and 60-64 cohorts.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly hailed the “incredible” impact of the vaccine, with a 98 per cent reduction in cases of the virus among health workers since the peak in January.
Mr Varadkar and Mr Donnelly said they would be happy to take any coronavirus vaccine they were offered.
“We have four really safe, really effective vaccines and whenever it is my turn I will take whatever is offered,” Mr Donnelly said.
Mr Varadkar added: “In terms of any vaccine I’m offered, I’d be very happy to take it.
“They’re all close to 100 per cent effective in terms of avoiding serious disease and death and they’re all much safer than the risk of getting Covid so I’d have no hesitation.”