Reopening plan comes with 'heavy caveat' about COVID-19 rates - Donnelly


Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

19.43 31 Aug 2021


Share this article


The plan to reopen comes with a "heavy caveat" that easing restrictions will depend on COVID-19 rates at the time, the Health Minister says.

Stephen Donnelly also says cases aren't expected to peak until COVID-19.

He was speaking to The Hard Shoulder after the Government announced its roadmap to ease almost all remaining restrictions by October 22nd.

Advertisement

Restrictions will be eased on a phased basis over the coming weeks, before the planned lifting of all limits on crowd sizes at indoor and outdoor events in just over seven weeks.

However, Minister Donnelly says COVID-19 rates in Ireland are still the highest in the EU, despite the extremely high vaccination rates here.

He said there's concern over the rise in COVID-19 cases in the likes of Northern Ireland and Scotland, where most restrictions have already been lifted.

He said: “The plan comes with a heavy caveat, as always - it depends on the profile of the disease at the time.

“The [models] we have from Professor Philip Nolan’s group… have the disease stable or falling by the end of October. That would give us the room to make that final step.”

He said most models show that case numbers aren't likely to peak until mid-October.

It means daily numbers are expected to increase before that - in line with the return to schools, colleges and workplaces.

Despite that, Minister Donnelly said the current advice is that children do not need to wear face masks in primary schools.

He said: “HIQA gave a report to NPHET last week. The report has concluded we do not need masks in primary school. However, NPHET’s now going to look at that - and they’ll issue advice to me.

“The ECDC advice tends to be masks for secondary school, but [with] the CDC in America… it’s much younger. There’s mixed policy around the world.

“HIQA have advised we don’t need it in primary school. Let’s see what NPHET says, but the current policy is as it was.”

Vaccines

Under the reopening roadmap, the return of live events and larger crowds will be largely limited to vaccinated people for now.

The need for a COVID pass for indoor hospitality and events would then be scrapped from October 22nd.

Almost 90% of adults have already been fully vaccinated.

Minister Donnelly said the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals is currently nearly a "50:50" split between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

He said: “For the size of the individual cohorts, there are far more unvaccinated people in hospital.

"The Chief Medical Officer... has made the point repeatedly: there are a very small number of people who can’t be vaccinated - a very, very small number - but if you’re choosing at this stage to be unvaccinated, you are a risk.

"You have to remember this is a vicious disease.”

He said some people haven’t been vaccinated as they just “haven’t gotten around to it yet", and officials are now looking at opening pop-up vaccine centres during freshers' week in colleges.

However, he acknowledged: “There are some people who just aren’t going to do it, and ultimately we just have to accept that is what it is.”

In terms of the planned booster vaccine campaign, current NIAC advice has suggested that should focus on immunocompromised people first.

However, the Health Minister says he expects it will ultimately be "wider than that" - but NIAC is currently waiting on international data before making a final decision.

For now, NIAC's advice around pregnant women getting the vaccine has now changed.

Minister Donnelly says the advice now states that women can get the vaccine at any stage during their pregnancy, following conversation and consultation with their doctor.

Main image: Stephen Donnelly. Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

Share this article


Read more about

Restrictions Stephen Donnelly

Most Popular

Live: Title

Now playing

00:00:00 / 00:00:00
Added to queue
Removed from queue

On Air

Share

Share


Up next

Episode title
Show
Duration

You currently have no podcasts in your queue.

Go to podcasts

On Air

The Hard Shoulder

The Hard Shoulder

16:00-19:00

Share

Up next

OFF THE BALL

OFF THE BALL

19:00-22:00

Share

THE TOM DUNNE SHOW

THE TOM DUNNE SHOW

22:00-00:00

Share

BEST OF NEWSTALK

BEST OF NEWSTALK

00:00-06:00

Share

BREAKFAST BRIEFING

BREAKFAST BRIEFING

06:00-06:30

Share

BREAKFAST BUSINESS

BREAKFAST BUSINESS

06:30-07:00

Share

NEWSTALK BREAKFAST

NEWSTALK BREAKFAST

07:00-09:00

Share

THE PAT KENNY SHOW

THE PAT KENNY SHOW

09:00-12:00

Share

LUNCHTIME LIVE

LUNCHTIME LIVE

12:00-14:00

Share

MONCRIEFF

MONCRIEFF

14:00-16:00

Share

THE HARD SHOULDER

THE HARD SHOULDER

16:00-19:00

Share

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

Share on