Republic of Ireland news

Two-thirds of adults in Republic will have received Covid vaccine by end of weekend

Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed one third of adults will be fully vaccinated by Sunday evening
Michelle Devane and Cate McCurry, PA

Two thirds of adults will have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of the weekend, the taoiseach has said.

Micheál Martin also confirmed one third of adults will be fully vaccinated by Sunday evening.

Speaking at Government Buildings, Mr Martin said: “This current week is the biggest week in terms of the administration of vaccine with 330,000 being administered.

“(Thursday) was the biggest day yet at 58,000 vaccines administered.

“I think it’s a phenomenal achievement. Over the weekend 3.5 million vaccines will have been administered in this country (to date).

“It’s an unprecedented vaccination programme that I will attribute to the national taskforce, the HSE and all of the vaccinators across the country, including GPs, who will have collectively administered 1.5 million since the programme began.

“We also have the highest rates in terms of participation rates in the different age cohorts, which I think is giving us an edge in terms of protecting society from the virus.”

The Fianna Fáil leader said there were 18 people in ICU on Friday morning and that 24 hospitals around the country had two or fewer Covid patients.

“All of that reflects well on the vaccination and on our capacity as a society to suppress the virus,” Mr Martin said.

“It’s important we keep the focus, that we maintain our vigilance, particularly in regards to the Delta variant, which is a particular concern.

“If we can parallel that with the rollout of the vaccination programme we can maintain that vigilance. We are in a good position to continue the reopening of society on a steady but on a sure basis, and that’s the key message for the public.

“Stay with this – our strategy has been working over the last while and it’s important we keep that up.”

Mr Martin also said the government will “keep it steady” throughout June, and “we won’t be advancing or accelerating anything”, he added.

“Some of that is caution in respect of the Delta variant. The last two weeks have been very good and the epidemiologists have been saying that since May we have been on a downward spiral in terms of the prevalence of the virus.

“We are watching what is happening in the UK.”

Chief medical officers on both sides of the border met today to discuss concerns over the Delta variant.

Mr Martin said they are not contemplating restrictions on travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

He added: “Overall the CMO was very positive yesterday and it’s good news that CMO and Nphet had a positive press briefing.

“We are not contemplating that right now but obviously public health will advise in accordance with the prevailing situation. We will see the outcome of that meeting.”

His comments come as Fine Gael senator Regina Doherty called on the government to introduce antigen testing in the aviation sector.

The leader of the Seanad said it is “imperative” a pilot antigen testing programme is rolled out in advance of international travel resuming on July 19, adding that she could not understand why antigen testing had not been employed at a “far greater and far faster rate” than it has been to date.

“We’ve been incredibly cautious as a country, and rightly so because we needed to mind ourselves and our people,” Ms Doherty said.

“But it’s now time to be ambitious. And I think maybe we’re not being ambitious enough.

“I don’t know why we are not employing antigen testing at a far greater and far faster rate than we are.

“We’ve a situation where we have an aviation industry on its knees crying out for a pilot (antigen testing scheme).

“We’ve a minister asking for a pilot and a CMO, not giving that answer back because they hadn’t gotten the letter of the request, but saying that he favours a pilot.

“So I think now it’s beyond time for us to say, let’s do a pilot (testing scheme) in our aviation industry.”

She also called for rapid antigen testing to be introduced in schools, offices and sporting fixtures, saying: “I don’t understand why we aren’t using them, I really don’t.”

Speaking at Leinster House on the fourth day of Fine Gael’s Ard Fheis, Ms Doherty said antigen testing was being used across the world “yet we’re still here questioning and poking holes in it”.

“The virus is not going to go away in September when we’re all vaccinated,” she said.

“It’s going to be here for a couple of years before it fizzles out and we need to give people peace of mind that they can carry on.”

She claimed antigen testing is “far more accurate” and “cost-effective” than PCR testing when it comes to aviation.

Asked about whether the State should be paying for tests for people to go on their holidays, Ms Doherty replied: “This isn’t about going to Ibiza, but it shouldn’t be not about going to Ibiza too.”

She added: “We’re paying for PCR tests here for the last year, in probably the hundreds of millions to keep people safe. That doesn’t stop just because instead of getting on a bus they want to get on a plane.

“If we really want to keep people safe, well then we need to keep them safe and we need to employ the tools that we have to give them the peace of mind of what they’re doing, they can do safely.”

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