Ireland overtakes ‘nearest neighbour’ UK with 72.4% of adults vaccinated, says Taoiseach

Tony Holohan praises young people who queued to get vaccinated against Covid-19 at walk-in centres

HSE clinics are open to those aged over 16 who have yet to receive a first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus. Photograph of interior of Citywest: Paul Reid/Twitter

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said Ireland has overtaken the UK when it comes to vaccine rollout.

He said Ireland now had 72.4 per cent of adults fully vaccinated while the UK had 72.1 per cent.

“The vaccine rollout is continuing at great pace. Today we edged ahead of our nearest neighbours - a brilliant effort by everyone involved,” he said.

Hospital Report

Earlier, Mr Martin praised the “positive uptake” of vaccinations at walk-in centres which are open across the country this bank holiday weekend.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: ‘Today we edged ahead of our nearest neighbours’. File photograph: Collins Photos

Walk-in vaccination was available at a number of other locations elsewhere until later, and will be available on Sunday. Full details are here.

The HSE clinics are open to those aged over 16 who have yet to receive a first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus.

Mr Martin tweeted: “Great to see the walk-in #Covid19 vaccine clinics up and running — and the positive uptake already.”

Chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Tony Holohan praised young people in particular for “lining up to get vaccinated” against Covid-19 at walk-in clinics.

Many teenagers were among those queueing outside the Citywest Convention Centre in Dublin on Saturday, where vaccinations were offered between 8am and noon.

“Today we have reached the milestone of 300,000 cases reported in Ireland since the beginning of the pandemic,” Dr Holohan said.

“However, today we have also seen how solidarity continues to be the hallmark of our response with young people across the country lining up to get vaccinated, both to protect themselves and to play their part in protecting the community.

“I strongly urge anyone eligible for a vaccine to come forward and avail of the opportunity as soon as possible.”

Deputy CMO Dr Ronan Glynn also praised young people in a tweet: “Quiet acts by the silent majority have defined the response to #COVID19 in Ireland. Vaccine uptake by young people & attendance today at walk-in centres are the latest examples of how people of all ages continue to act to protect themselves & their wider communities #Forusall”.

A further 1,427 cases of coronavirus were confirmed on Saturday afternoon, with 164 Covid-19 patients hospitalised, of which 26 are in ICU.

The latest Covid-19 figures for Northern Ireland were released earlier on Saturday afternoon.

There were eight deaths along with 1,177 positive cases reported in the past 24 hours, according to the North’s Department of Health.

A total of 2,255,519 vaccines have been administered in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly announced an update to the list of so-called “designated States”.

People who are not yet fully vaccinated arriving to Ireland having been in or transited through these States in the previous 14 days must enter Mandatory Hotel Quarantine (MHQ).

The additional countries to be added to the list are: Georgia and Malaysia.

Kuwait has been removed from the list of designated States.

Earlier, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said Ireland is on the “final countdown to protect ourselves & to rebuild”.

“City West is flying it, with over 800 people vaccinated in the first 1.5 hours. Smaller centres equally reporting a good turnout. A great response by the Irish people,” Mr Reid tweeted on Saturday morning.

An appointment is not needed during the allocated times but those who show up outside of these times will not be vaccinated. People can also register online for an appointment.

“This weekend we can further strengthen our defence lines against #Delta. “Walk In Vaccination Centres” for all adults to receive a dose 1 are now available. After just 7 months of the vaccination programme we’re on the final countdown to protect ourselves & to rebuild,” Mr Reid said.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is on offer at the clinics.

Ireland’s vaccine programme has accelerated significantly in recent months with more than 5.8 million shots administered to date.

In excess of 86 per cent of eligible people have received one dose with more than 71 per cent fully vaccinated. Health officials have said children aged 12-16 should be offered a vaccination in August.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has said the “incredible uptake” is leading Ireland to a “turning point in the pandemic”.

Meanwhile, up to 40,000 fans are to be allowed to attend the All-Ireland finals in Croke Park in a further step towards easing Covid-19 restrictions.

The possibility remains that a sharp rise in case numbers or poor compliance with attendance guidelines by spectators could see the decision reversed. However, there is confidence in Government that the large gatherings will go ahead, bolstered by the rising level of vaccination among adults and the absence of infections linked to pilot matches held so far.

About 25,000 fans are also to be allowed to attend the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifiers in the Aviva stadium in September under the plan announced by Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers on Friday.

He said the plan “is an important signal of how far we have come as a country”.

Alongside the mandatory wearing of face-coverings, fans will be expected to maintain social distancing as they enter and leave stadiums. Matchgoers must provide contact details when purchasing tickets and are encouraged to have the Covid tracker app for smartphones.

Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna this week warned that a failure of spectators to wear masks – with compliance as low as 30 per cent at some games – could undermine efforts to secure higher attendances.

On Friday night, he welcomed the “extremely positive” decision to press ahead, saying the “challenge” now would be to prove fan compliance could be delivered.

He said it would be “unusual” at this point for the decision to increase attendance numbers to be reversed but “not unrealistic either” given the ongoing “precarious” public health situation.

There have been continuous reminders in stadium announcements and on screens and signage of the requirement to wear a face covering. Mr McKenna believes compliance would be helped now that the recent heatwave has abated and he predicted fans would respond well to the guidelines.

Arts an ‘afterthought’

A Government source confirmed that, as with any easing of Covid-19 restrictions the decision to increase numbers would be kept under review.

The crowd limit of 40,000 will be applied for the senior hurling and football finals next month as well as for the camogie and ladies’ football finals.

A working group involving the GAA, FAI and IRFU, along with Government and health officials, has been meeting weekly to review the pilot matches.

These meetings will continue in August including after the increased attendance of 24,000 that is being allowed at four All-Ireland semi-finals.

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne welcomed the opening-up of sporting events and indoor hospitality but expressed frustration that “theatre and arts venues continue to be an afterthought”.

He said these are “large controlled venues that can sit people apart at a distance and where audiences aren’t looking to talk, unlike in a pub or restaurant.

“Why is the same level of attention not being paid to how we can safely resume cultural activity as to other sectors?”

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) reported that there were 1,501 confirmed cases of Covid-19 notified on Friday, with 169 patients in hospital and 23 in intensive care units.

Separately, the HSE urged the public to be vigilant after reports of a text scam from criminals claiming to be offering a HSE vaccination appointment.

Travel warning

Meanwhile, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned against all but essential travel to much of Spain, including the holiday islands of Ibiza, Minorca and Palma.

It also warned about travel to most of the Netherlands, Cyprus, Corsica and the popular tourism spots of the south Greek Aegean islands due to a boom in Covid-19 cases.

Travel within the European Union has been facilitated by the Digital Covid Certificate for proving a person is fully vaccinated, has recently recovered from the virus or has had a negative pre-departure test.

The Government on Friday launched an online portal to help people access their certificates as members of the public continued to complain about long delays on helplines that were set up earlier this month.

The portal,, allows people to request changes to a certificate already received or to check the status of their certificate.

The latest figures show that 21,000 calls have been handled by agents out of just under 213,000 or slightly below 10 per cent.

Elsewhere, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he does not approve of any “unilateral breaching” of Covid-19 regulations after Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said he would continue to offer Communions and Confirmations.

Mr Martin said he wanted to know if it was “too much to ask” that the current regulations are adhered to while the country makes significant advances in the Covid-19 vaccination campaign. - Additional reporting PA

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times