One million first vaccine doses administered, Taoiseach says as ‘outdoor’ summer ahead
429 new cases and one further death reported in the State as Cabinet set to consider reopening measures
People enjoying the good weather in St Stephens Green, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
One million first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered across the State, Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said on Sunday.
“Just been informed by @HSELive that we’ve reached 1 Million first doses of the #CovidVaccine. Great work by all the vaccination teams and GPs across the country,” Mr Martin tweeted. There have also been about 400,00 second doses administered.
There were 429 new cases and one further death reported in the State by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Sunday. Of the Covid-19 cases reported on Sunday, the median age was 29.
It comes as Mr Martin has said that “outdoor is the theme for the summer” in relaton to the planned reopening of the country.
The Government will this week announce what sectors will likely reopen throughout the months of May, June and July.
He said for the month of May the Cabinet will consider the reopening of retail, hairdressers and religious services.
“What we said we would do last month for April, we did, and we can see the latest instalment of that from Monday with underage sport coming back in terms of non-contact training for under 18’s. I would like to see the over-18’s (resume), we will be examining that for May because I’m very concerned about mental well-being, the importance of getting out there and getting into training.”
“That outdoor theme is critical because we know that outdoor is less harmful in the context of the spread of this virus than indoor.”
Asked on RTE’s The Week in Politics about indoor hospitality, Mr Martin said he understood that livelihoods are at stake in the sector.
“But what I said at the outset is anything we open now we want to keep open. We want to end this stop and start. The strategy is working in terms of controlling the virus, and that needs to be acknowledged.”
“For the summer I think outdoor has to be the theme.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the Government will this week offer certainty to businesses about what will happen in May, June, July and August.
The State’s public health team Nphet will meet on Wednesday and there will be a Cabinet sub-committee on the same day before a special Cabinet meeting on Thursday where Ministers will agree on the plan for the summer, he told RTE’s This Week programme.
Mr Coveney said there is an expectation that on the 4th of May there will be capacity for the further removal of restrictions including for retail and personal services.
Monday will bring several changes in Covid restrictions including that underage non-contact outdoor training can recommence in pods of 15 or fewer. Many outdoor sports facilities can reopen, such as pitches, golf courses and tennis courts,while the reopening of zoos, open pet farms and heritage sites will be allowed. The maximum attendance at funerals will increase to 25.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) is expected to make a decision this week on the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine amid concerns over rare blood clots.
“Johnson and Johnson is a very important vaccine for quarter two. We had a principal from the outset of this pandemic that politics wouldn’t make up the science or wouldn’t override the science but it’s interesting that the United States have now made its judgment in terms of the FDA in respect of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Niac can now benefit from that informed opinion from the United States. Without question the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is important, with 600,000 vaccines to the end of June,” Mr Martin said.
The Taoiseach said the HSE administered 177,500 vaccines in the last week and the aim is to administer the same this coming week. The Government is also hoping for a delivery of 160,000 Astrazeneca doses towards the end of next week.
“May and June will be heavy vaccination months without question. The supply coming in May at the moment will be well over a million. The only thing that has held us back has been the disruption in delivery schedules.”
Mr Coveney said the hope is that the Niac will on Monday allow for the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
“There is a lot of urgency in Niac, but they want to get the decision right. Of course we want to see Johnson being used for as many people as possible but we want the reassurance that this can be done safely and with the support of Niac,” Mr Coveney told RTE’s This Week programme.
Mr Martin will be registering for his Covid-19 dose this coming week and he will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“I am looking forward to doing that and getting that vaccine whenever the date arrives. The evidence is strong in relation to both AstraZeneca, and Johnson and Johnson, that the benefits outweigh the risks.”
On Sunday vaccine registration opened online for people aged 62 at vaccine.hse.ie who can recieve the AstraZeneca jab, which has been limited to over 60s due to rare blood clot concerns in younger age groups.
The HSE’s chief executive Paul Reid confirmed on Sunday that more than 220,000 people aged 62 to 69 have registered to receive the AstraZeneca vacine, with over 90,000 appointments booked so far.
The latest official vaccination figures show that about a quarter of the eligible adult population have received a first dose. There were 42, 756 doses administered on Friday. There have been 966,611 first doses administered and 393,310 second doses administered as of Friday.
The Taoiseach also said that Ireland will join with Europe in terms of the green certificate for travel.
“We will be part of that European Union approach. There is technological aspect which we’re working on already to be interoperable with the European system, we are getting close to that. By July, there will be significant vaccination across Europe, so our positions will change in terms of travel advice. I don’t believe we can seal it off Ireland forever. We just can’t. We are an interconnected Island, a global island, in terms of economy and in terms of our society and in terms of our people.”
He also indicated that India will be added to the quarantine list early this week. The chief medical officer Tony Holohan has this weekend written to the Minister for Health in relation to India and a number of other countries. The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will consult with tMr Coveney before a decision is made early this week.
Asked about foreign holidays or holidays abroad, Mr Coveney said the green pass will be approved in the EU by June but that Ireland would not be joining at that early stage.
“We are going to be cautious here. International travel is not likely to be a big feature this summer.”
In relation to adding India to the mandatory quarantine list, Mr Coveney said it is likely to be added very shortly. “We are not going to hang about,” he said, adding that he will speak to Mr Donnelly. “I suspect within the next 48 hours we will see that actioned.”
The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has increased slightly since Saturday, which had been the lowest level since October.
On Sunday there were 174 people in hospital and 45 people in ICU. On Saturday there were 162 people in hospital and 46 in ICU with Covid-19.
The latest vaccination figures show that about a quarter of the eligible adult population have received a first dose. There were 42, 756 doses administered on Friday. There have been 966,611 first doses administered and 393,310 second doses administered as of Friday.