Plan for return of events and overseas travel to be announced next week

‘We will be trying to give a sense to people in those key sectors what will be possible,’ says Taoiseach

The Taoiseach said an announcement would be made next week in relation to overseas travel, as well as the entertainment sector and live events. File image: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

The Taoiseach said an announcement would be made next week in relation to overseas travel, as well as the entertainment sector and live events. File image: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

An increase in the vaccination rate this month could create possibilities for overseas travel, as well as live events potentially in June and July, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Speaking at Government Buildings on Friday, he said the State was on course to vaccinate over 1 million people during the month of May alone.

Mr Martin said over 290,000 people over 50 years of age received a vaccine jab last week, that 280,000 people would receive it this week and an estimated 290,000 would receive it next week.

“The vaccination programme is going very well with a very strong momentum,” he said.

The Taoiseach indicated that a higher number of vaccinations could allow for some positive news when the Government makes its “comprehensive” statement next week on the further reopening of society and sectors of the economy.

“Anything we reopen we will keep open,” he said.

He said that in addition to the early June reopening of accommodation and wider reopenings on June 7th, including outdoor dining, there would also be announcement “in relation to travel, and also in areas around the entertainment sector, live events, what is possible in June and July”.

He said: “We will be trying to give a sense to people in those key sectors which have been significantly hit up until now what will be possible.”

He said discussions would take place on Monday and Tuesday with issues to be ironed out, ahead of an announcement in mid week.

Asked about the Indian variant of Covid-19, rates of which in the UK are causing concern among public health officials here, Mr Martin said the Government was tracking it very closely and he had been briefed on it by the British prime minister Boris Johnson during their meeting last week.

He said 42 per cent of adults had their first dose of the vaccine and 15 per cent had received two doses. “That gives strong protection already in reducing severe illness. Our hospitalisation numbers are steady… It reflects the impact of vaccination.”

He added the EU Council meeting next week would be dealing with the Europe-wide green certificate for travel.

“Vaccination will make a difference in relation to travel options,” he said but refrained from naming a date for the reopening of foreign travel from Ireland.

‘Wet pubs’

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin has said she was “hopeful” that an announcement will be made shortly on supports for thousands of so-called “wet pubs” across the country to enable them to serve during the summer.

Speaking on Friday, Ms Martin told reporters that the situation was “more complex” than for venues that serve food, but she is confident that progress is being made on the issue of supports for pubs that don’t have a dining option.

“I’m hopeful that very shortly there will be an announcement that will be of benefit to thousands of wet pubs across the country in relation to supports.”

She said also that she hopes the Government will next week produce a roadmap for international tourism. “It is really critical for tourism to recover, it accounts for 75 per cent of the tourism revenue and I’m acutely aware of that,” she said.

She said she would be advocating for indoor dining to return “as soon as possible in July” due to its “critical importance to the industry”, but said the Government would be reminded of the public health advice in this area, and would hope to bring more certainty to the situation next week.

She said “we’re entering a period of hope when it comes to opening up the sector”, but that supports for the most impacted sectors, including the tourism and arts sectors in her own brief, would not be confronted with a cliff edge.

“All of that will be examined in the context of the national economic recovery plan, and I’d hope that would be announced shortly, and that will address the sectors that have been most impacted.”

“You have to look at the off-peak period as well and the supports needed... and that’s what I’ll be examining and considering with my Cabinet colleagues.”

Ms Martin, who is also deputy leader of the Green Party, said she would like to test-run live performances in June rather than July. “We want to get them back performing and working again and I would hope to have some indication on that next week when we make the announcements on Friday.”