Coronavirus restrictions likely to remain until October

Most over-16s must be vaccinated for Nphet to consider further easing of restrictions, say Coalition sources

It is understood that members of Nphet believe that somewhere between 85 to 90 per cent of over-16s will need to be fully vaccinated before any widespread easing of restrictions can be recommended. Photograph: iStock

It is understood that members of Nphet believe that somewhere between 85 to 90 per cent of over-16s will need to be fully vaccinated before any widespread easing of restrictions can be recommended. Photograph: iStock

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The vast majority of people over the age of 16 would have to be vaccinated before the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) considers a more widespread easing of restrictions, it has emerged.

The team met on Wednesday to finalise its advice to Government ahead of a meeting of the Cabinet Covid-19 sub-committee on Friday, where the next roadmap for reopening will be discussed.

It is understood that members of Nphet believe that somewhere between 85 to 90 per cent of over-16s will need to be fully vaccinated before any widespread further easing of restrictions can be recommended. Government sources believe that this means that many of the remaining restrictions will stay in place until at least October.

Sources have also raised the spectre, however, of further freedoms for vaccinated people before then.

A letter detailing Nphet’s latest recommendations was due to be sent by the chief medical officer Tony Holohan to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly last night.

It is understood that any final timelines for the resumption of certain sectors, such as live entertainment, will be set at Friday’s meeting before final agreement at a full Cabinet meeting next week.

Dr Cillian De Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory and a member of Nphet, said on Wednesday that Nphet hopes to be in a position to advise the Government to further ease restrictions in about six weeks.

“That’s the time when we will be in a position to progressively ease restrictions because people, the vast majority of the eligible population, will be protected at that stage,” he said.

He said it was probably early to predict definitively what is going to happen in one or two months, “but we certainly are confident, or optimistic at least, that within the next four to six weeks we will see a plateauing of the case numbers from this wave”.

“The case numbers will decline and there’ll be a knock-on effect through our hospital system,” he told RTÉ’s Drivetime programme.

Mixed messages

Meanwhile, there were mixed messages from Government last night on whether or not the Electric Picnic festival could still go ahead in the autumn. Laois County Council has said there is “no provision in law” to enable it to revisit the refusal of an event licence for the music event.

Organisers had hoped it would go ahead with as many as 70,000 concert-goers on the weekend of September 24th to 26th.

On Wednesday, the Government said there is no legal basis for restricting outdoor events to fully vaccinated people. At the same time, it said the licensing of concerts was a matter for local authorities.

However, some Government sources suggested that Electric Picnic’s promoters could reapply with a new date, along with their own requirement that concert-goers be fully vaccinated.

There is little chance, however, of the Dáil being recalled to pass amendments to the existing legislation, which only governs use of the Covid pass for admission to indoor venues.

A further 2,051 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were notified by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre on Wednesday. There were 323 Covid-19 patients in hospital, including 56 in ICU.

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