The success of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Ireland means that a gradual return to the workplace could commence in September, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said.
“The vaccination targets that we've been meeting are phenomenal, we have incredible stories as a country in light of how we have actually pulled ahead now," he said.
"For most of the first part of this year we were looking at the UK and the US ahead of us, we passed out the US and we're about to pass out the UK in terms of the level of vaccination and that, as Dr Tony Holohan says, does give us strength, that gives us the ability to do further reopenings."
Mr Ryan said he expected people to return to the workplace in September. It was an important part of mental health to get back to office, he said.
“We need to start planning for that, it will be a phased basis, part of a gradual safe transition," he said.
'We need real life return'
The Minister said: “What's next has to be the return to work and to college, we need real life return.
"We also need the return of creative industries, they've been the worst hit, music, arts, entertainment. Not immediately, but we will start planning now, in the coming weeks to see how those other industries that they too can start planning a return.
“It's important that we continue what has worked, that we've done it in a staged, step-by-step basis, we don't reverse, we do it in a way so if we open something up, we're not going to have new restrictions and therefore coming back — better to do it in a planned way.
“The next couple of weeks will still be tight, we do have to be careful," he added.
Mr Ryan said he supported a call from his colleague Catherine Martin for digital Covid certs to be used for admission to live events. There needed to be a gradual and safe return of the live events sector.
He said he could not give an exact date for the return, “we need to start planning, to have everything in place so we can do it safely.”
On the issue of the appointment of Katherine Zappone as UN special envoy, Mr Ryan said that Ms Zappone had real experience in the area, but that he did not think anyone had been happy with the way the appointment had been announced.
“The Taoiseach has acknowledged that the process was not appropriate. I did share my views with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, they know exactly what my position is.”
Mr Ryan said that lessons could be learned from what had happened, that such appointments should be open and transparent.