Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he is "very much against" stopping vaccines being exported from the European Union, adding that it is "absolutely vital" that vaccine supply chains remain open.
In advance of an EU leaders' summit later this week that will consider proposals for export controls on vaccines, effectively stopping them from leaving the EU, Mr Martin said he was strongly against such a move.
“I am very much against it. I think it would be a very retrograde step,” he told RTÉ’s News at One.
He said it was "absolutely vital" that pharma companies were able to keep their supply chains open. He said the Pfizer vaccine was manufactured from materials supplied by 86 suppliers in 19 countries, and export bans would risk disrupting vaccine production.
He disagreed with a suggestion by president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen that the EU could block the export of vaccines to some countries.
He said the UK should “reciprocate” the export of vaccines from the EU to the UK.
Mr Martin also suggested that easing restrictions on outdoor activities, including sport, could be considered in April. He also said that it was “not contemplated” that the return to school of remaining secondary school students after the Easter holidays would be postponed, despite recent concerns about increasing infections.
He said that in order to keep numbers down, “we must avoid congregation indoors at all costs”.
But Mr Martin hinted that restrictions on outdoor socialising could be relaxed, saying: “The theme really going forward has to be outdoor.”
He said that Ministers and officials would consider the options for relaxing the restrictions after April 5th and they would factor in the effects of the vaccine in reducing serious illness and mortality.