Covid-19: Ministers to call for partial easing of restrictions next week

Move could see vaccine certs remain in place as a requirement for indoor hospitality

The Government will closely monitor the data this weekend before making a final decision next Monday or Tuesday.  Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/

The Government will closely monitor the data this weekend before making a final decision next Monday or Tuesday. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/

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Ministers will push for a partial easing of Covid-19 restrictions next week which could see vaccination passports remain in place as a requirement for entering venues and premises.

There are mounting concerns in Government and among public health officials about the rising number of Covid-19 cases and the high number of patients in hospital.

While no decisions have been made yet about the next phase of reopening on October 22nd, senior sources have acknowledged that some of the measures may be paused if the situation continues to deteriorate.

One proposal is to remove some restrictions, while keeping the requirement to show proof of vaccination before entering a business.

The Government will closely monitor the data this weekend before making a final decision next Monday or Tuesday.

Total doses distributed to Ireland Total doses administered in Ireland
12,143,670 10,271,198

Booster shot

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) is also due to meet in the coming days to discuss a possible booster shot campaign. There is growing impatience in Government at the pace of those deliberations as some Ministers believe it is imperative that the booster campaign is expanded as early as possible. One option is that the rollout would be offered in a descending order down through the age cohorts.

Many health experts, however, say there is insufficient evidence to support a mass rollout of booster vaccines.

“We have to weigh up additional vaccine doses extremely carefully,” Prof Mary Keogan of Beaumont Hospital told a symposium in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland on Thursday.

“We know two doses of vaccine provide protection against severe disease in the vast majority of the population. We don’t know if a three-dose schedule will improve response or durability of the protection we get.”

“At a time when most of the world is not vaccinated we really can’t afford that luxury,” said Prof Keogan, adding that “we need to be mindful of our responsibility to use this precious resource prudently” when much of the global population was unvaccinated.

‘Middle way’

On the potential easing of restrictions on October 22nd, a Government source said that there might be a “middle way” of easing some restrictions, but not all of them, and this could involve opening up for only the fully vaccinated and recovered. There is a feeling that this could encourage more people to get vaccinated or get their second shot if they haven’t done so.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris on Thursday suggested an extension of the digital Covid certificate beyond October 22nd as a safer way of society fully reopening.

There are fears in Government that some indoor hospitality venues are no longer enforcing the requirement for Covid certificates for entry, and also a wider sense that compliance with Covid regulations and advice has begun to diminish. Against this backdrop, there is considerable unease in Government about reopening nightclubs, as well as the return of late opening hours for bars.

With a further 1,627 cases confirmed on Thursday, there are fears of waning immunity, especially among people who did not return to get their second dose of the vaccine. Officials believe that some people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in the early months of the programme did not get a second dose, including some healthcare workers.

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