By James Ward, PA
The Government has a “difficult decision” to make over allowing indoor dining to return on July 5th, HSE chief executive Paul Reid has said.
On Thursday night, Taoiseach Micheál Martin refused to speculate on plans to ease restrictions amid concerns about the Delta variant, first identified in India.
The Cabinet is to decide next Thursday whether it will give the green light for bars and restaurants to resume indoor hospitality on July 5th.
HSE boss Paul Reid said on Friday that the Taoiseach is facing a difficult decision, and that “nobody would envy Government having to make those choices”.
“Government have to weigh up all those really difficult choices, because people do want the economy continuing to open, people do want society continuing to open, and that’s important for our health service” Mr Reid told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“But it’s that difficult dilemma of what we see as a very real significant threat and trying to protect the gains.
“It’s really that difficult point we’re at, to bank everything that we have and not lose it again.”
Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys has said the Government will have to await recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team before any decision is made.
We've now 3.8M vaccines administered with approx 66% of adult population had a 1st dose & 38% fully vaccinated. 54,000 administered in each of the past two days. 92,000 dose 2s Astrazeneca done last week & same for this week. Vaccines are winning but it's not over yet. @HSELive
— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) June 24, 2021
She said: “I do understand how difficult it is for publicans and for restaurateurs, but it would not be helpful for me to speculate because we need to get the data.
“We need to make a decision next week on this matter.
“But what we want to be sure about is that when the restaurants open up they can stay open.
“Because we don’t want a situation where they open, then they find they have to close down a couple of weeks later, that is not what anybody wants.”
The minister said the Government is examining ways to speed up the vaccination rollout to combat the threat posed by the Delta variant, which is more transmissible than other strains of Covid-19.
She said a delay to the lifting of restrictions would be beneficial because “it means that more people will be vaccinated”.
She added: “So that reduces the risk, and the Government is looking at ways to speed up the vaccination.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is a two dose vaccine. Please attend for your second AstraZeneca dose when invited. This gives increased & longer lasting protection against COVID-19 including the Delta variant now circulating widely in the UK. Learn more: https://t.co/cRbgHJGRZH pic.twitter.com/qPPs0ecAZC
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) June 24, 2021
“Apart from shortening the interval between AstraZeneca doses to cover more of the population, we’re going to continue to explore other avenues to see if we can speed up the vaccination programme.
“Because it’s the vaccinations that will give people the protection and that’s very clear from the data, that when you’re vaccinated, you’re in a much, much better position.”
Mr Reid said “every day counts” when it comes to the vaccination programme.
He said: “There’s certainly no doubt, every day counts. If you take yesterday alone, 58,000 vaccines were administered.
He added: “Every 37,000 doses we administer, it’s another 1% of the population.”