Gradual return to workplace could start in September, Eamon Ryan says

Ryan says return to workplace will be on phased basis, ‘part of a gradual safe transition’

Minister for the Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan. File photograph: The Irish Times

Minister for the Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

The success of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Ireland means that a gradual return to the workplace could commence in September, the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said.

Mr Ryan said the return to the workplace will be on a phased basis and “part of a gradual safe transition”.

“The vaccination targets that we’ve been meeting are phenomenal, we have incredible stories as a country in light of how we have actually pulled ahead.

“For most of the first part of this year we were looking at the UK and the US ahead of us, we passed out the US and we’re about to pass out the UK in terms of the level of vaccination and that as Dr Tony Holohan says does give us strength, that gives us the ability to do further reopenings,” Mr Ryan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Thursday.

Return

The Minister said he expected people to return to the workplace in September and that it was an important part of mental health to get back to the office.

“What’s next has to be the return to work and to college, we need real life to return. We also need the return of creative industries, they’ve been the worst hit, music, arts, entertainment. Not immediately, but we will start planning now, in the coming weeks to see how those other industries that they too can start planning a return,” he added.

“It’s important that we continue what has worked, that we’ve done it in a staged, step by step basis, we don’t reverse, we do it in a way so if we open something up, we’re not going to have new restrictions and therefore coming back - better to do it in a planned way.

“The next couple of weeks will still be tight, we do have to be careful.”

The minister’s comments come as chief medical officer Tony Holohan raised the prospect on Wednesday of a further easing of coronavirus restrictions, saying such steps “may not be far away” as vaccinations intensify in the coming weeks.

“What are the things we would move on and what are the things that we think might need to stay place? Those are the things we’re giving consideration to,” Dr Holohan said.

The possibility of a further easing of restrictions reflects confidence in the advancing vaccination programme and it comes despite rapidly rising Covid-19 incidence among young adults aged 19-24, who have yet to receive inoculations.

Dr Holohan said the high levels of vaccine uptake gave reasons for optimism and that officials were examining what criteria should be met before easing some of the remaining restrictions.

Recommendations

Nphet will consider the matter next week and any recommendations would be made “at some point after that” to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

“In broad terms given the progress we’re making in vaccination notwithstanding where we are at in terms of the disease we might in coming weeks be in a situation where we’re able to... move away from some of the restrictions,” Dr Holohan said.

“We’re looking at essentially what are the kind of criteria that need to be satisfied that would enable us to advise when we think it’s appropriate and safe [to ease some measures]. It’s more about achieving those criteria rather than a specific time period or a date. But if we keep progress going in terms of vaccination that may not be far away.”

There were 147 people in hospital with Covid-19 as of 8pm on Wednesday, with 26 patients in ICU (intensive care).

A further 1,408 cases of Covid-19 were reported in the State on Wednesday.