Monday, October 18, 2021

The Taoiseach has said the continued use of Covid certificates and mask wearing was “certainly on the agenda” as the Government is set to decide on lifting further restrictions amid rising hospital admissions.

With lobby groups calling for clarity on how the final public health measures will be eased in the Republic, Micheál Martin said things had changed dramatically in the past week.

He said the challenge posed by the virus was that the situation was always changing.

Speaking to The Irish Examiner and other media in Sligo, Mr Martin said he did not accept that the planned easing of restrictions on Friday would be a repeat of previous liftings.

“It's not Groundhog Day, I don't accept that presentation,” he said. “The economy has rebounded very significantly and in a very fast way because of the reopening of society.”

However, he said that “Covid has many twists and turns”.

“We're witnessing another now at this particular point in time, which will give us pause for reflection,” he added.

The Taoiseach acknowledged that the rise in hospital admissions was causing concern but said the Government wanted to provide clarity on Tuesday on the easing of restrictions.

Mr Martin said mask wearing and the continuation of vaccination certificates were “items on the agenda” for Tuesday's Cabinet meeting.

On Friday, almost all remaining Covid-19 restrictions are due to be lifted, including requirements for social distancing and restrictions on how many people can attend indoor venues.

Mr Martin insisted that it had not been a mistake to herald October 22nd as a date for the lifting of all restrictions.

“Back then, we were on a very good trajectory and indeed up to the last week, public health [advisers] were positive enough of all the way things were going,” he said.

Nphet is meeting on Monday afternoon to consider its advice on reopening, while the Government will also be discussing how vaccine certificates, booster shots and Covid testing can be used as it comes to its decision.

While the Government is keen to expand the vaccine booster programme to more vulnerable groups, the “green light” from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) is awaited on this. Niac is also meeting on Monday.

Ministers will make decisions on the next phases of reopening following Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

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