People who have been cocooning and taking other measures against Covid-19 but who are now vaccinated should have confidence about opening up their lives, the State's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has said.
In an “open letter”, Dr Holohan said some people might be nervous about the prospect of increased activity and interaction.
“While this anxiety is understandable, you can have confidence in your vaccine, no matter which one you received,” he said.
One of the ways in which anxiety can be managed, he continued, was to plan each trip, making sure to bring face masks and hand sanitiser, to arrive in good time, and to avoid crowds.
“Risk assess your choices and your environments. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, feel empowered to walk away and come back another time,” he wrote.
“Encourage loved ones to feel similarly about prioritising their own safety.”
While some pandemic restrictions will be eased for all from next month, vaccinated people will be entitled to do more.
They will be able to take part in indoor home visits without masks or social distancing with other fully vaccinated people (provided there is no more than three households present). They will also be able to meet indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household (provided they are not at risk of severe illness).
In his letter, Dr Holohan said it was “important that you look out for the public health advice that is relevant to you and to plan to do it safely, but it’s important to get on and do it!”
He said everyone has had one of the most uniquely challenging years of their lives. He added that the pandemic had dealt every person in Ireland an unfair hand in different and diverse ways. Some were faced with more difficulties than others, especially those who have been bereaved by the disease.
“I would like to express my sincere condolences to each of you,” he said.
Dr Holohan said those who at the outset were told they were medically vulnerable, either due to an underlying condition or their age, were asked to make significant sacrifices.
“You have risen to this unprecedented challenge. By protecting yourselves and staying at home, you also undoubtedly helped to suppress this disease, which protected other people and saved many lives.”
Individual behaviour designed to reduce transmission of the disease would continue to be a core feature of the ongoing response to Covid-19, he said.
For many people, he continued, the last year did not allow them to be as active as they were previously and this has likely negatively impacted on mobility and fitness, as well as on confidence.
“It is important to be aware of this and give your body time to readjust to being more active,” the letter said.
“Now is the time to move forward, to go outdoors and to see one another again. As spring turns to summer, we should all take advantage of the bright evenings and warmer weather. Exercising outdoors is an important tool to protect our mental and physical health.”
However, he concluded that while things had come a long way, there remained a risk that too much social mixing especially indoors, in houses and other settings would lead to a further surge of this disease.