340 new cases as AstraZeneca vaccines ‘important factor’ for reopening

There are currently 15 people in ICU and a further 47 people in hospital with the virus.
340 new cases as AstraZeneca vaccines ‘important factor’ for reopening

Press Association

Updated at 17:20

The advice of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) on giving surplus AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to younger people will be an “important factor” in the Government’s decision on further Covid relaxations, the Taoiseach has said.

It comes as the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has announced a further 340 new cases of Covid-19.

There are currently 15 people in ICU and a further 47 people in hospital with the virus.

Micheál Martin has confirmed that Cabinet would deliberate on the scheduled July 5th reopening of indoor hospitality in Ireland early this week.

In an interview with RTÉ, Mr Martin said that Niac’s advice would influence the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (Nphet) deliberations on whether to recommend delaying the planned relaxations.

The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are currently not given to adults aged under 50 in the Republic as a precautionary measure in response to rare incidences of blood clotting linked to the jabs.

Mr Martin said Niac was considering whether to alter that advice in the face of the Delta variant’s emergence.

His comments come after a report in the Sunday Times suggested the State could be left with up to 400,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab that it cannot use by the end of July if the advice does not change.

The Government has also come under pressure from the hospitality sector this week, with Ministers facing intensifying calls from bar and restaurant owners to urgently provide clarity.

They have made the point that they need to tell their staff whether or not they will be working on July 5th.

The Taoiseach did not rule out the prospect of the reopening proceeding but with more robust infection control measures in place.

He said “various scenarios” could emerge in how hospitality could operate in the weeks ahead.

Delta variant

Mr Martin said the Government would need to examine modelling in respect of the potential impact of the Delta variant in Ireland. Mr Martin said he would also look to how the variant has spread in other countries, such as the UK.

“The calculus is different now, the risk is different now than Christmas time for example,” he said.

“We have 2.5 million people vaccinated now, fully vaccinated, with close to four million overall vaccine doses administered – between first and second doses, the older age cohorts have been protected.

“So all of that has to feed into the decisions that we take in respect to this.

“And I understand just how difficult and devastating a year it has been for hospitality in particular, we get that, we understand that and we also understand the need to give early notice.”

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