Republic of Ireland news

Republic at ‘trickiest moment' as it eases restrictions, government says

Covid-19 vaccine appointments were made available for a limited number of people aged between 35 and 39-years-old
Michelle Devane, PA

The Republic is at arguably its “trickiest moment” as it begins to ease Covid-19 public health restrictions, a senior government official has warned.

Liz Canavan, assistant secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach, said people can afford to be “cautiously optimistic” but they need to “stay vigilant”.

“We need a bit more time to ensure that those who are most vulnerable are vaccinated and a higher proportion of the broader population is vaccinated,” Ms Canavan said.

“What we’re doing is working so we can afford to be cautiously optimistic.

“We should be able to look forward to further relaxation of restrictions in the coming months but we still have to go easy for the next while.

“The careful and staggered relaxing of restrictions has to be at just the right pace so that we do not get ahead of ourselves so the disease incidence and the protection the vaccine brings are not in balance.

“Arguably this is the trickiest moment and we don’t want to mis-step now.”

Ms Canavan appealed to people to continue to adhere to public health guidelines.

She said there would be a further easing of restrictions from next week and that the government would also be considering “what’s possible for May and beyond”.

From Monday non-contact outdoor sports activities, such as golf and tennis, can resume, outdoor visitor attractions, such as zoos, wildlife parks and pet farms, can reopen and the maximum attendance at funerals will be increased to 25.

Her comments come as the chairman of the GP Committee of the Irish Medical Organisation said he believes the government can still meet its target of vaccinating 80% of the population by June.

Dr Denis McCauley told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme he believes the rollout of the vaccination programme is going well.

The government has a target of 250,000 weekly doses of the vaccine being administered.

“The vaccination programme is going well,” Dr McCauley said.

“We’re along the European average, we’re doing as well as we can.

“If you compare us with Denmark, the only difference is they got extra Pfizer so I think we should be pleased.

“The infrastructure and the people are working hard, as soon as we get vaccines we’re giving it.”

Dr McCauley described the rates of coronavirus in the community as “steady”, adding this was primarily due to the “good actions of the Irish people” and that the rates were not coming down further because the variant was more infectious.

Asked about the possibility of the lengthening the gap between the administration of doses of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines he said: “Any change has to be shown to be a very good idea.”

Dr McCauley also said he believed mental health issues would become a long-term issue post-Covid.

“Everybody is talking about long Covid but I think one of the specialities that will be experiencing this in the long term is the psychiatric services,” he said.

“People are tired and also anxious and depressed,” he added.

“It will be one of the long Covid features that we will be treating, even when the lockdown is eased somewhat.

“It will take a long time for the effect of the lockdown to sort of dissipate for these people, so it has been very difficult for them.”

People aged 64 can now register to receive the vaccine through the HSE’s online portal.

Registration will be available for people aged between 63 and 60 over the coming days.

To date more than 165,000 people between 64 and 69 years have registered for the jab through the portal.

The rollout of the vaccines in the over 70s age group and the high risk cohort is continuing.

As of Friday, a total of 1,275,828 doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been administered.

Some 23% of the population has received one dose, while almost 10% have received two doses.

This morning there were 166 people with coronavirus in hospital, including 48 in ICU.

The Department of Health confirmed 10 more deaths linked to Covid-19 and 617 new cases of the virus yesterday.

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