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No decision yet on 22 Oct easing, but suggestions Covid Pass system will be extended

The Taoiseach says there is a ‘need for perspective’ but would not be drawn further on re-opening plans.

This is a very different situation than the one we were facing into last autumn, said Micheál Martin.
This is a very different situation than the one we were facing into last autumn, said Micheál Martin.
Image: GARY ASHE

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN says no decision has been made yet on the further easing of restrictions next week.

Speaking to reporters today at Government Buildings, the Taoiseach would not be drawn on whether the use of the Covid pass to access the likes of pubs and restaurants would be extended beyond 22 October.

“I am not going to speculate what will transpire next week,” he said, stating that government will discus this over next numbers of days before a decision is made on Tuesday. 

On 22 October all remaining Covid-19 restrictions are scheduled to be lifted, including requirements for social distancing, indoor mask-wearing and limits on numbers at events.

The changes will herald the return of businesses like nightclubs.

It is also planned that entry requirements such as vaccination certs or testing will be removed but speaking today, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris suggested that vaccine certs may remain when nightclubs reopen. 

He said the government will be considering what can be done to make sure we open safely

“So, for example, the difference between opening with a vaccine certs and not opening,” he said.

‘Back to basics’

When asked about the possible retention of the Covid pass, Martin said the virus has not gone away and urged people to get “back to basics” in terms of hand washing and wearing face masks in some settings.

“Not everyone is adhering to the vaccine cert” protocol, said the Taoiseach, stating that sectors need to implement the system.

“That would help a lot,” he said, adding the businesses need to “redouble down” on their efforts. 

Earlier this month, the Dáil approved the extension of legislation that gives emergency powers to the Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly to keep vaccine passports for indoor dining until 9 January.

At the time, the minister was keen to stress that the extension, which effectively gives the minister the power to re-impose the regulations, was “precautionary”. 

92% vaccination rate

Speaking this afternoon, the Taoiseach said there is a need “to keep it all in perspective”, stating that the 92% adult vaccination rate will be taken into account.

Over the coming days, the government will assess the scale of the situation, he said.

Martin also urged those that are not vaccinated to take the vaccine, and urged those that have still not got their second jab to get the shot. He said it is “key to meeting the challenge”.

This is a very different situation than the one we were facing into last autumn, he added.

The booster programme has started, with Martin stating that he wants to see it continue and expanded, once NIAC delivers its recommendations.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that no decision has been made yet on the further easing, but said that up to date data will be looked at over the coming days.

He said he hopes the booster plan “comes very soon”, stating that in Israel, when Covid numbers surged post-vaccination, a wider booster programme got the numbers back down again.

He said the case for a booster programme “is stronger than ever” now, and said he looked forward to hearing NIAC’s recommendations. 

Varadkar also said that vaccines are still available and noted that it is a personal choice if a person chooses not to get vaccinated.

The Taoiseach said the government will continue to persuade people to take the vaccine.

Clarity on “what is happening with Covid” is being sought from NPHET, added Martin.

He said he is aware of the pressure that some businesses are under right now due to the uncertainty of what decision might be taken next week.

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Detailed data sought

The government is seeking detailed data from health officials on the breakdown and make up of the increasing Covid-19 case numbers and hospitalisations ahead of next week’s Cabinet meeting.

It is understood ministers are now seeking additional breakdowns of the number of vaccinated people that test positive for the virus and feature in the daily case number notifications.

People who are fully vaccinated can still transmit and contract Covid-19, though their symptoms are much milder. Vaccines help prevent serious illness and death. 

Health officials are also being asked for the daily hospital figures of people that are Covid-positive patients because of the viral infection, against patients who are in hospital for an injury or other illness, but who happen to test positive for Covid-19.

The HSE today warned that it is experiencing the strain of increased Covid-19 hospitalisations heading into the winter period. 

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