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Covid-19: Call for ‘as wide a reopening as possible’ sounds eerily familiar

Inside Politics: Political sources say there is declining public tolerance for the continuing lockdown

AstraZeneca again cut its delivery volumes for a shipment scheduled on April 24th from 45,000 to just 9,000

Good morning,

“As wide a reopening as possible” - that’s what Government Ministers want to unveil after they meet next week to decide what the next few months will look like.

According to our lead story this morning from Pat Leahy and Jack Horgan-Jones, the plan for reopening the country is to proceed at pace if the relevant statistics stay on track and the Ministers have their way.

It all sounds eerily familiar.


Late last November, on our front page, The Irish Times reported Ministers were to push for “the greatest possible” easing of restrictions the following week as the Government grappled with decisions on how to exit Level 5 restrictions ahead of the festive period.

Part of that push involved reopening shops, restaurants and churches. Of course, we all know how that went.

It would be glib not to acknowledge that there is one big difference between Christmas 2020 and summer 2021 – and that is the advent of increasing supplies of Covid-19 vaccines.

At the time of that headline in November, the high-level vaccine taskforce had just held its very first meeting. Now, more than 1.2m doses have been administered under its watch.

Although some things have changed, others have stayed the same. As we detail in our lead, sources on the political side say there is declining public tolerance for the continuing lockdown. On the other hand, there is resistance to some aspects of reopening from public health officials who prefer a more cautious timetable. Intense behind-the-scenes wrangling is expected in the coming week.

The pressure is very much on the Government to get this right in a way it did not before. It is by any standard a difficult balance to strike: more and more people are fed up of tight restrictions, but the vaccination campaign is poised at a delicate moment. There are jabs are going into arms, but there is also the worry of those more transmissible variants.

It will also come as unwelcome news to many to learn this morning there have been more hiccups in the inoculation campaign.

AstraZeneca again cut its delivery volumes for a shipment scheduled on April 24th from 45,000 to just 9,000, while a delivery of 165,000 doses due on Friday, April 30th, has been delayed until May 3rd.

“The short-term impact will be mitigated by a stockpile of AstraZeneca doses and increased Pfizer deliveries, but it will be another drag on the goal of hitting 250,000 doses administered in a week,” we report today.

There were some other interesting updates to Cabinet about the coming weeks in relation to Covid-19.

Ministers were told that up to 800 vaccinators are needed for April and May, and more than this have been recruited. Further recruitment may take place across training disciplines among radiographers, dental hygienists, vets and healthcare students.

Another interesting nugget is that a pilot project involving 15 community pharmacies will be launched by the end of this month, “to test operational arrangements ahead of pharmacists being used in the rollout”. Seeing pharmacists administer the vaccine will certainly mark a new phase of the campaign.

Lastly on Covid and Cabinet, the meeting was told that senior Government officials will look at the issue of “the use of vaccine certs domestically” and as part of the European digital green certificate system. Expect much debate on the role of these certs, potentially starting from as early as today as the Dáil resumes and Taoiseach Micheál Martin takes Leaders’ Questions at noon.

Follow all the action at

Lest you forget: Seanad byelections

Back in the world of politics, the Seanad byelections may have flown under your radar, but polling closes today, and counting begins to fill the vacancies caused by the resignations of Fine Gael’s Michael D’Arcy and Sinn Féin’s Elisha McCallion.

There are seven candidates. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have put forward one each, Gerry Horkan and Maria Byrne. Both are expected to be elected.

Labour has put forward two candidates, Angela Feeney and Ciarán Ahern. Green Party chair Hazel Chu is also running – the subject of much hand-wringing within the Greens.

Party leader Eamon Ryan wanted his TDs and Senators to vote for Coalition candidates in the expectation the Coalition parties would support a Green Party candidate should another vacancy arise during the lifetime of the Government.

The deputy leader of the party, Catherine Martin, on the other hand, signed Ms Chu’s nomination papers. There has been speculation some disgruntled Government backbenchers could act outside of the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil pact and vote for Chu. All will be revealed.

Also running is Independent candidate Billy Lawless and Ian Marshall, a unionist from Co Down.

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The Dáil returns today, kicking off with a Private Members’ motion from Sinn Féin on mental-health surge capacity. Leaders’ Questions will be taken at noon followed by the order of business. Taoiseach Micheál Martin will take questions shortly after 1pm before a debate on the Climate Action Bill.

In the evening at 7.30pm, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath will take parliamentary questions on his brief so expect a few updates on the sky-high pandemic spending. The Dáil is scheduled to adjourn at 8.30pm.

There are a few other motions and bits of business interspersed throughout the day, details of which can be found here.

The Seanad does not return until Friday. Any committee meetings are private today, so it will be quiet on that front.