Ireland could return to “close to” normal by the end of the year if “everything goes well” with Covid-19 vaccine supply and uptake and the control of new variants, according to deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn.
Though there was no certainty, people have “good reason to be hopeful” and we could be “in a good place” by the end of the summer, he told the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) briefing on Thursday night.
Dr Glynn cited the positive effects of vaccination already evident and the imminent arrival of more good vaccines, as well as “phenomenal” compliance with public health guidelines.
There is “early and clear evidence” of the protective effect of vaccination in long-term care facilities, where there has been a “sudden and sharp” decrease in cases, the briefing heard. The number of cases has dropped from 1,250 to 200 in three weeks.
Among healthcare workers, infections have fallen “precipitously” – down 93 per cent from mid-January compared to a 77 per cent fall in infections overall.
The HSE said it is working actively with GPs to address supply “issues” that have arisen in recent days in relation to vaccines. This follows numerous claims by GPs and Opposition politicians alleging unequal or inappropriate distribution of vaccines.
In the Dáil, Labour leader Alan Kelly claimed younger staff at a childcare provider in Co Wexford were inoculated for Covid-19 out of sequence.
A HSE spokesman said vaccinations were carried out in accordance with guidelines but did did not respond to a query on whether those vaccinated included childcare workers.
Most adults aged between 18 and 69 years will be administered the AstraZeneca vaccine, Nphet officials also confirmed, with a small group of immunosuppressed people likely to be given mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna if available within a three-week timeframe.
Meanwhile, EU member states promised to “uphold tight restrictions while stepping up efforts to accelerate the provision of vaccines”.
“For the time being, non-essential travel needs to be restricted,” leaders of the 27 states said following a video conference on the pandemic, attended by Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Technical work has begun on medical certificates that could show whether an individual has been vaccinated, and would be recognised across the EU.
The Dáil passed legislation for mandatory hotel quarantine, with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly claiming Ireland will have “the most restrictive and comprehensive” system of hotel isolation in the EU.