Coronavirus: 360 new cases reported as Varadkar says August the earliest date for holidays abroad

Tánaiste says mandatory hotel quarantine will be with us in some form ‘for some time’

There have been a further 360 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the State, the Department of Health has said. On Monday morning, there were 110 Covid positive patients in hospital, of whom 42 were in intensive care.

The Department has not notified any further deaths of patients who tested positive for the virus since Friday, the same day that it emerged the department and HSE had been the target of a cyberattack.

Elsewhere Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said it will be "August at the earliest" before non-essential international travel can take place again.

“It’s against the law at moment to leave Ireland for non-essential reasons, but we will have to change that law at some point,” Mr Varadkar said at the virtual launch of Cllr James Geoghegan’s campaign as Fine Gael’s Dublin Bay South byelection candidate.


He said 60 per cent of adults here have yet to be vaccinated and there are some new variants which “we’re concerned about”, meaning any reopening will be gradual and done in steps.

“I think realistically it’s likely to be towards the end of the summer, August at the earliest, before we’re saying to people it’s ok to engage in non-essential international travel,” Mr Varadkar said.

Mandatory hotel quarantine will also be with us in some form for some time to come, he said, as other countries’ vaccination rollouts lag behind ours, but there will be room to open travel between certain countries.

“It is my fervent ambition that we will be able to restore the common travel area with Britain very soon, so people can travel without restrictions... we will be able to restore that at some stage this summer or Autumn.

“I’d like to see us have travel within the EU again and perhaps the US [without restrictions] but there will be large parts of the world not vaccinated fully until the middle of next year some time... so I think we will have some form of mandatory hotel quarantine in place for those high risk areas.”

The EU Green Cert on travel is still in development and should be ready by the middle of June, he said, with countries then having six weeks to adopt it for use.

“It appears there will be a lot of flexibility in how countries use it. Some countries might say a [NEGATIVE]test is enough, others might say you have to be vaccinated,” Mr Varadkar said.

The Tánaiste's comments come as the National Immunisation Advisory Committee has confirmed the age limit for the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines is being reduced from 50 to 40 years, with people aged in their 40s being given a choice.

Niac, which made recommendations to chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan over the weekend, considered the administration of the two vaccines to people in their forties "with some conditions attached," he said.

Dr Holohan is understood to have endorsed Niac’s recommendation in his recommendation to Government. The HSE has now been asked how to operationalise the proposals.

Sources said that implementing the advice will be “tricky” as it is not clear whether the information on risks can be given through existing frameworks and structures in the vaccination programme, or if they will need to be modified. Other aspects, such as whether the conditions attached complicate plans to roll out the vaccine through community pharmacies, also need to be examined.

The recommended conditions would include ensuring people have full information about any potential risks and ensuring the two vaccines could be administered to younger people at a quicker pace than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said.

People who decline to accept AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson will be offered mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) as supplies come available.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times