Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Julien Behal Photography via RollingNews.ie.
By Anthony Neeson
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has insisted that Ireland’s vaccination program is “well underway."
The government has faced criticism for its vaccine supply which currently sees it lagging behind Northern Ireland and Britain. While the over-45s are now being vaccinated in Northern Ireland, in the Republic health authorities are just getting round to the over-65s.
There is one significant difference between North and South. In Northern Ireland people receive their second dose of the vaccine ten weeks after their first, while in the Republic people receive their second dose three weeks after their first jab.
Mr. Martin says he expects vaccinations to be ramped up in the coming weeks to allow the country to slowly reopen from the latest restrictions.
Speaking to the nation, he said that a lot had been asked of people living under “very strict Level 5 restrictions now since Christmas."
From April 13 people will be able to travel within their own county and will no longer be restricted to five kilometers from their own home. Two households will be able to meet outdoors for social and recreational purposes. There will also be a phased return of the construction trade from that date.
In addition, high performance training will soon be permitted, including senior inter-county GAA training so the National League competition can begin in May, as well as training for certain high performance athletes.
From April 26, 25 mourners will be able to attend a funeral, while training for U-18s can begin, as well as golf and tennis returning and visitor attractions like zoos reopening.
The vaccines, Martin said, are “transformative” and the country’s “way out” of the pandemic. He said that over the next three months the supply of vaccines is set to be dramatically increased.
“As I speak to you now, more than 800,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered. That means that we have administered the first vaccination to those over 80, to frontline healthcare workers, and we are making good progress with the most medically vulnerable.
“This has allowed us to move to the next phase and begin vaccinating people over 65, and people with underlying medical conditions.
“By the middle of April, all over 70s will have had their first dose, and mid to late May all over 70s will be fully vaccinated.”
Martin said by the end of this week one million doses will have been administered.
“After that, our plan is to pick up the pace even further. Close to three million doses will be administered by the end of May. Nearly five million doses by early July. Six million doses by the end of July. What does this mean for us in real terms?
“Well, towards the end of April, we will examine the situation and in the month of May we will look at a phased reopening of non-essential retail, personal services, all non-contact sports training, religious services, museums, galleries and libraries, and additional freedoms for those who are fully vaccinated.
“Towards the end of May, and depending on progress, we will look at the reopening of hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses in the month of June.
“July and August will see more intensive vaccination and the vast majority of the population will have significant protection against the virus allowing for significant opportunities to re-open even further.
“By being safe now, while significantly ramping up the vaccination program, we will enjoy much greater freedom later in the summer.”