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Martin promises ‘steady as she goes’ approach to relaxing Covid restrictions

PA Media logoPA Media 29/07/2021 By Dominic McGrath, PA
Micheal Martin wearing a suit and tie standing next to a fence: Taoiseach Micheal Martin said that the approach over the coming weeks would be ‘cautious’ (Damien Eagers/PA) © Damien Eagers Taoiseach Micheal Martin said that the approach over the coming weeks would be ‘cautious’ (Damien Eagers/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said that the Irish government will take a “steady as she goes” approach to Covid-19 restrictions in the coming weeks.

Speaking during a visit to a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Swords this afternoon, Mr Martin said that while the vaccination programme was making good progress, the Delta variant of the virus meant that a cautious approach is needed.

While he did not give any indications of whether any Covid restrictions would be relaxed in August, he did suggest that he would like to see attendance at the All-Ireland finals in Croke Park increase above the current maximum of 18,000 spectators.

Mr Martin said that Minister Jack Chambers is in contact with the relevant sporting organisations about increasing capacity at next month’s All-Ireland finals and semi-finals.

He said that he wanted to avoid any kind of social gatherings that could cause a spike in Covid-19 cases. “We want to avoid super-spreader events,” he said.

Mr Martin was speaking a day after the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) suggested that there were reasons to be optimistic about the future.

On Wednesday, Professor Philip Nolan, who models the spread of the disease for the Government, said he does not expect to see a single peak in this fourth wave of the pandemic.

“I do think there’s grounds for optimism because it seems to me, quite clearly, that after 18 months or so people are very clearly reading the risk,” he said.

“If our collective behaviour starts to push case numbers up, people collectively become more cautious and that’s why I don’t expect to track any of these huge waves.”

During his visit, Mr Martin met with staff working at the vaccination centre and, in a reference to the gold medal success of rowers Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy at the Olympics, praised the “Olympian” efforts of vaccination teams.

“We’re at 71% fully vaccinated, 86% partially vaccinated with one dose,” he said.

On Thursday, a further 1,361 cases of Covid-19 were reported in Ireland, the Department of Health said.

A total of 160 patients in hospital have Covid-19, with 26 in intensive care.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the country has to continue to drive up vaccination rates “as high as possible”.

“The higher we go, the better the protection we have and the sooner we’ll be able to ease more of the economic and social restrictions that still remain in place,” he said.

“Walk-in vaccination centres are opening across the country, anyone over 16 years of age can register for a Covid-19 vaccine.

“Encourage your friends and family to ensure they get reliable information about the vaccines available here and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“For our exhausted healthcare workers, the winter months ahead mean flu, other respiratory infection admissions alongside the backlog of scheduled and unscheduled care that has been disrupted due to Covid-19.

“We owe it to them to continue to maintain the basic personal public health protections; manage your contacts, keep distance, wash/sanitise hands regularly, cough/sneeze etiquette, avoid crowds, wear masks indoors and in crowded settings.

“If you experience Covid-19 symptoms, isolate and get tested.”

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