By Dominic McGrath, PA
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has declined to fully back a suggestion that the vast majority of Irish people aged 16 and over need to be vaccinated before a significant easing of coronavirus restrictions can take place.
It has been reported that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended 90 per cent of over-16s should be fully vaccinated before a significant easing of restrictions can take place.
Mr Donnelly was speaking before a meeting of the Cabinet Covid-19 committee on Friday, with a full Cabinet meeting due to take place next week.
“I don’t think we need to get up on a particular figure, be it 90 per cent, 87 per cent, 93 per cent. We’re getting there or thereabouts anyway,” he said.
The minister praised people across Ireland for their enthusiasm and eagerness to get vaccinated.
He said “credit” should go in particular to young people, many of whom have rushed to get a Covid-19 jab since registration opened in the last few weeks.
Just in - the latest information for walk-in vaccinations for this weekend is now up. Check out the days and times for your local vaccine centre here. https://t.co/WzSFr7wk7C
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) August 26, 2021
Speaking to reporters outside Government Buildings in Dublin, Mr Donnelly said ministers will be looking at the latest recommendations from Nphet.
He said the Government “wants everything to open up as quickly as possible”, but “whatever we do, it has to be done safely”.
Health officials, including chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, have warned in recent days of the high incidence rate of Covid across all parts of the country.
When incidence of disease is high, as it is in Ireland at the moment, it greatly increases the risk to you of contracting #COVID19. If you complete your vaccine schedule you will be fully protected 7 – 14 days after your second dose. #ForUsAll
— Dr Tony Holohan (@CMOIreland) August 26, 2021
On Friday, other Government ministers suggested they would like to see an easing of restrictions in the coming weeks.
Culture Minister Catherine Martin told reporters she wants to see an easing of restrictions for the live music industry in September.
“At the moment we have silence in our music. I want to hear music again,” she said.
Asked about the recommendation that 90% of those aged 16 and over need to be vaccinated before restrictions can be eased, Ms Martin said that would be a “very hard target to reach”.
It is believed that such a target would take several weeks to achieve.
“I’m looking for a return to music in September. I think that’s a very hard target to reach. For the sector in particular, there’s been a lot of changing the goal posts for them,” Ms Martin said.
She added that she is exploring “all possible options” regarding the hosting of Electric Picnic.
On Wednesday, Laois County Council that it could not revisit or reconsider its decision to refuse a licence for the festival to be held this year, after Dr Holohan said he would have no concerns about the event taking place with only fully vaccinated people in attendance.
Green Party leader and Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said he believes reopening can be phased across September and October and the following months.
“I think we can do a lot in September, but the majority will obviously happen in October and beyond,” he told reporters on Friday.
He said he would like to see the immediate return of full capacity to public transport, in part to facilitate the return of schools and any wider reopening.
“There will be immediate measures we’ll be looking to do – taking heed of the public health advice obviously – but recognising that we do need to get the country back to some sort of normal life,” Mr Ryan added.