Large events like Electric Picnic “could occur” safely with the vast majority of the population vaccinated, a leading expert has said.
Liam Fanning, Professor of Immunovirology at UCC, says we need to move to a situation where we’re living with COVID-19 “as a vaccinated population”.
With a reopening roadmap being finalised in the next few days, much of the attention has turned to live events - one sector that remains almost entirely closed.
NPHET met this morning to discuss the easing of remaining restrictions, while the Government is finalising plans that are set to be published on Tuesday.
Yesterday, Electric Picnic organisers urged Laois County Council to reverse course and grant the festival a licence for next month.
MCD Productions today said it needs a decision 'later today or tomorrow' on whether Electric Picnic can go ahead.
Managing Director Denis Desmond says at the very least they need to engage with officials before the week is out, as organisers will need to start working on the site if the festival is to proceed in late September.
It comes after the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said NPHET would have no major concern about large outdoor concerts going ahead if they were for vaccinated people only.
On Newstalk Breakfast, Professor Fanning said he’d now like to see a “dividend for the population” given the high vaccine uptake in Ireland.
He said: “I think for a population with over 90% vaccinated, that Electric Picnic and those kind of events could occur.
“We’ve seen Croke Park… we’d take it that most of those individuals - 80% - were vaccinated.
“We’re going to be going with an endemic virus and living with it as a vaccinated population.
“[We have to accept] it’s in 16-29 year-olds for the moment - but that’s going to shrink shortly.”
Over 90% of the adult population has received at least one dose, with the vast majority of those now fully vaccinated.
However, health officials have said it’s important to give time for the vaccines to take full effect, as the full level of protection doesn’t kick in until 7-14 days after a second dose.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said he expects to see remaining restrictions lifted ‘this side of Christmas’ and hopefully before that.
However, Dr Tómas Ryan - Associate Professor at the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College - told Breakfast patience is still crucial when it comes to reopening.
He argued: “It’s a prediction that they have that vaccination is going to allow things get to normal by October / November… but we haven’t really seen much of the science that’s actually going into that.
“There have been a lot of politics, and not much science.”
He said it would be “wonderful” to see restrictions eased before Christmas, but we’re not yet seeing the R-number of the virus reduce in line with vaccine rates.
Dr Ryan also argued that schools are not safe in the current COVID-19 environment.
He argued: “We have never opened schools with these case numbers before… we have never seen the Delta variant in our schools. We have never opened schools while we were reducing restrictions.
“We’re protecting society now, as individuals with vaccination. There is nothing protecting children, and schools are vaccine free environments.”
Education Minister Norma Foley has said she’s “very optimistic and confident” about the measures in place for schools, and “it’s all systems go” for reopening over the coming days.