Republic of Ireland news

Republic's health minister hopeful of no lockdown return as public transport back at full capacity

The Republic's Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, will launch today's 'Shared Island Dialogue' event on the future of cross-border healthcare services
Dominic McGrath, PA

Dublin's health minister Stephen Donnelly has said there is no specific measure or statistic that would cause the government to pause or reverse the easing of restrictions, as public transport returned to full capacity.

On Tuesday evening, the government unveiled plans to ease the majority of remaining Covid-19 restrictions.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the sectors still closed due to the virus can “now begin to hope again” as he set out the road map agreed by the Cabinet to reopen society.

This morning, Mr Donnelly said he hoped there would be no return to lockdowns – but acknowledged that the next stages of the pandemic were unpredictable.

He said: “There’s one thing we know about this virus though. It has torn up global plans many times.

“The two big concerns I have are the rates on the variant we’re dealing with right now and I’m particularly conscious of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland now. And secondly, a new variant and because of that it’s impossible to be 100% certain.”

The health minister said the government will be monitoring the data on outbreaks in schools and colleges, as well as the numbers of people admitted to hospital and into intensive care.

Looking at data “in the round” would allow the government to decide whether reopening needs to be paused or delayed, he said.

Mr Donnelly said that the return to full capacity public transport was not “about the science” and said it was not a “public health recommendation”.

“It’s something that Minister Ryan was very keen could be facilitated. We do want to get people moving around the country. The current restrictions had been putting a lot of pressure on public transport.”

The health minister told RTÉ radio that it was “unlikely” that capacity at Croke Park would be significantly increased for the GAA All-Ireland football final on September 11.

Currently, 40,000 people are set to attend the clash between Mayo and Tyrone later this month.

Under the plans confirmed yesterday, 75% of capacity will be available for vaccinated individuals at outdoor events.

That would mean more than 60,000 people would be allowed into the Dublin stadium.

Mr Donnelly suggested that attendance was not likely to change.

“If you had an adult population in Croke Park regardless, the vast, vast majority of people there are vaccinated anyway,” he said.

Health officials expect Ireland to reach the peak of the current wave of Covid-19 in mid to late September.

Yesterday, Mr Martin said the country is unlikely to ever get rid of the virus completely and said that the Republic expects to see an increase in Covid-19 case numbers in the coming weeks.

HSE chief Paul Reid tweeted this morning: “Everyone has made sacrifices to protect our health service. We appreciate it. Covid hasn’t been eliminated and if we can live our lives with caution, we can ensure society and the economy moves on.”

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