Covid-19 vaccination programme in ‘final furlong’, HSE chief says

Taoiseach plays down prospect of further easing of restrictions before end of August

The high levels of vaccination uptake have provided a ‘glide-path to some level of normality’, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said. Photograph: Emily Kask/New York Times

The high levels of vaccination uptake have provided a ‘glide-path to some level of normality’, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said. Photograph: Emily Kask/New York Times

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The Covid-19 vaccination programme has moved into its “final furlong” with hopes that as a many as 250,000 12- to 15-year-olds can get at least a first dose before schools reopen.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) yesterday reported early signs that the current wave of infections has started to plateau, though senior officials cautioned that they want to see further evidence of this.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said hospitals remain under strain and warned “we’re not out of the woods” with the Delta variant of the virus.

However, he said the high levels of vaccination uptake had provided a “glide-path to some level of normality”. The programme was approaching its “final furlong” after the decision to inoculate children aged 12 and above, he said.

‘Steady as she goes’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin played down the prospect of any significant further easing of Covid-19 restrictions before the end of August, saying his view is that a “steady as she goes” approach should be taken.

Mr Martin did suggest that that more than 18,000 GAA fans would be allowed attend the All-Ireland GAA finals and that lifting attendances for forthcoming football World Cup qualifiers was also under consideration.

He hailed the vaccination rollout and high levels of uptake and said that up to 250,000 12- to 15-year-olds could get at least their first jab before the new school term starts.

Mr Martin said the programme would offer the Government options when it came to any decisions on the further reopening of society. There is an expectation in Government that a gradual general return to workplaces could start in September.

The Taoiseach also said the Government does not expect guidelines for the return to offices to require workers to be vaccinated. Some tech companies, including Facebook and Google, have said staff elsewhere must be vaccinated before they come back to the workplace though both companies have indicated the policy could vary depending on regulations in different jurisdictions.

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