By Michelle Devane and Cate McCurry, PA
Ireland's reopening will be kept "steady" throughout June with no plans to restrict travel to Northern Ireland, according to the Taoiseach.
Micheál Martin said the Government “won’t be advancing or accelerating anything” amid some caution over the Delta variant.
However, he said restrictions on travel between the Republic and Northern Ireland are not under current consideration, after the region's next stage of reopening was delayed over the variant's spread.
Chief medical officers on both sides of the Border met on Friday to discuss concerns over the variant.
Speaking at Government Buildings, Mr Martin said: “Overall the CMO [chief medical officer] was very positive yesterday and it’s good news that CMO and Nphet had a positive press briefing.
“We are not contemplating [travel restrictions] right now but obviously public health will advise in accordance with the prevailing situation. We will see the outcome of that meeting.”
Mr Martin said the Government was “watching what is happening in the UK” but added the Republic was maintaining suppression of the virus.
“The last two weeks have been very good and the epidemiologists have been saying that since May we have been on a downward spiral in terms of the prevalence of the virus," he said.
Two thirds of adults will have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the weekend, Mr Martin added.
He also confirmed one third of adults will be fully vaccinated by Sunday evening.
“This current week is the biggest week in terms of the administration of vaccine with 330,000 being administered.
“[Thursday] was the biggest day yet at 58,000 vaccines administered.
If you’re aged 50 or more, and you haven't had a #COVIDVaccine yet, you can get a single-dose Janssen vaccine at a local pharmacy. Talk to your local pharmacist, or check the list of participating pharmacies ➡️https://t.co/6SbNOxqQDW #ForUsAll pic.twitter.com/uBKMtNfSJ1
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) June 18, 2021
“I think it’s a phenomenal achievement. Over the weekend 3.5 million vaccines will have been administered in this country [to date].
“It’s an unprecedented vaccination programme that I will attribute to the national taskforce, the HSE and all of the vaccinators across the country, including GPs, who will have collectively administered 1.5 million since the programme began.
“We also have the highest rates in terms of participation rates in the different age cohorts, which I think is giving us an edge in terms of protecting society from the virus.”
The Fianna Fail leader said there were 18 people in ICU on Friday morning and that 24 hospitals around the country had two or fewer Covid patients.
“All of that reflects well on the vaccination and on our capacity as a society to suppress the virus,” Mr Martin said.
“It’s important we keep the focus, that we maintain our vigilance, particularly in regards to the Delta variant, which is a particular concern.
“If we can parallel that with the rollout of the vaccination programme we can maintain that vigilance. We are in a good position to continue the reopening of society on a steady but on a sure basis, and that’s the key message for the public.
“Stay with this – our strategy has been working over the last while and it’s important we keep that up.”