Taoiseach: End of COVID-19 crisis is 'now truly in sight'


Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

18.22 23 Feb 2021


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Taoiseach Micheál Martin says over 80% of adults will have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination by the end of June.

He said the end of the current crisis is now 'truly in sight' - and the Government now wants to 'keep things open when they reopen'.

The Government will examine whether the current 5km travel limit can be removed at the start of April.

He was speaking after the Cabinet agreed to extend level five restrictions until April 5th.

While the vast majority of restrictions will remain in place, schools will start reopening from next week.

Leaving Cert students as well as the four youngest years of primary school will be the first pupils to return to classrooms on March 1st.

Fifth years and all other primary school classes will return to school from March 15th, with all outstanding classes to return after the Easter break.

Childcare services are set to reopen starting with the ECCE scheme on March 8th.

Non-COVID health and social services will also start to resume next month.

The Government has also published a revised ‘living with COVID’ plan.

It does not include dates for the reopening of different sectors of the economy.

However, the Government will first examine whether it’s safe to ease restrictions such as those on outdoor gatherings, sporting activity, construction and the 5km travel limit.

It has been confirmed the commercial rates waiver for businesses will be extended until June for businesses hit by COVID-19.

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment and Wage Subsidy Scheme are being extended.

PUP will continue at four rates between €203-€350 a week, depending on prior income.

'We want to reopen society as soon as possible'

The Taoiseach acknowledged people are ‘fed-up’ with the impositions on their lives.

Mr Martin said the rate of infection is steadily decreasing, but the UK variant - now by far the dominant strain here - is almost ‘equivalent to a new virus’.

The Taoiseach said new COVID-19 cases will need to decrease to open up safely, while the vaccination programme will have to be accelerated.

However, he said the country's now in a position to 'majorly ramp up' the vaccination programme over the coming weeks and months.

He said 1.25 million doses will have been administered by the end of March - then one million doses on average per month between April and June.

That will mean up to 40% of people over 18 will have received their first dose by the end of April, up to 64% by the end of May, and up to 82% by end of June.

Mr Martin said over half of adults will be fully vaccinated by the end of June.

He said he understands people will be frustrated while they wait for a vaccine, but added: “I ask you to be patient - there will be vaccines for everyone in the country to be vaccinated.

“We want to reopen society as soon and as safely as possible.

"The vaccination programme will completely change the landscape and transform the options available to us as a society for reopening and renewing our country.

"We will get through this. We just need to stay focused, and get through these next few months, safely, together."

He added that a National Economic Recovery Plan to 'reboot the economy' after the pandemic is already in 'advanced stages' of development.


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