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Don't expect a 'Freedom Day' but Taoiseach says lifting restrictions in September will be discussed next month

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan yesterday raised the possibility of further restrictions being lifted.

Taoiseach MIcheál Martin at the National Show Centre in Swords.
Taoiseach MIcheál Martin at the National Show Centre in Swords.
Image: The Journal

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said that any further easing of Covid-19 restrictions in September will be discussed throughout the month of August.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to a Vaccination Centre in Swords, Martin said there would be no “Freedom Day” as it was framed in the UK but rather a steady unwinding of restrictions. 

Martin was speaking after NPHET last night delivered an optimistic assessment of the situation during which Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan raised the possibility of further restrictions being lifted

Asked what restrictions he was referring to, Holohan said many have been lifted since the end of April but that some restrictions remain in place including the need for Covid Certs to enter hospitality and restrictions on the number of gatherings both indoors and outdoors.

The Taoiseach said further easing was not imminent and that factors such as the continued roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines would be monitored over the course of next month.  

He said that about 71% of the adult population was now fully vaccinated and that this could reach “the high 80s” by the end of next month.   

As well as monitoring the vaccination programme, the Taoiseach said government would be “keeping a close eye” on the link between the volume of cases, hospitalisations and any impact on health services. 

“Over the next number of weeks we will monitor this. During August there will be three Covid Cabinet subcommittee meetings and we will engage with NPHET and public health advice with regard to forming a view as to how we move forward then in September,” the Taoiseach said. 

“I think it’s steady as she goes, more or less what we said, what we’ve done and the consistent message for me has been we don’t want to go backwards.”

Martin said he was “cautiously positive about where things are right now” but that there is also uncertainty. 

I’m very conscious that in other countries months ago leaders declared victory over Covid but they were hit by subsequent waves. There will be worries over the winter period in terms of what the winter brings in, maybe in the form of new variants. 

He added: “Pandemics don’t end on a designated Freedom Day, they hopefully peter out or we will adapt as humans to live with this particular virus, or we will have enough tools at our disposal to deal with it like we deal with the flu.”

The Taoiseach was asked specifically about the upcoming All-Ireland finals and semi-finals and the level to which the attendance limits in Croke Park could be increased beyond the current cap of 18,000. 

“I think we can look forward to increasing that figure for the All-Ireland finals certainly, and we’re looking at the semi-finals. (Minister of State for Sport) Jack Chambers is engaging with the sporting organisations, engaging with the FAI as well in respect of the forthcoming World Cup Qualifiers and so on to see what we can do in terms of additional tools to protect people as well as potentially increased numbers,” he said. 

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The Taoiseach added that more details on increased capacities at sporting matches is to be provided by Chambers by way of an announcement next week.

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Rónán Duffy

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