Government determined schools will reopen in September

HSE chief asks public to embrace reopening of hospitality safely

Government sources were adamant that second-level education would resume in the autumn, despite concerns that the wave of Covid cases could grow following the reopening of indoor dining. File photograph: David Sleator

The Government is determined to reopen schools in September amid confidence that Ireland can “withstand” a wave of Covid-19 infection driven by the Delta variant without having to reintroduce serious restrictions.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said yesterday that falling case numbers in Scotland, the Netherlands and England – all of which are grappling with the more transmissible strain – “give us confidence that we can withstand the Delta wave without having to reimpose restrictions”.

“This is because of the protection afforded to us by vaccines,” he said.

Government sources were adamant that second-level education would resume in the autumn, despite concerns among public-health officials that the wave could grow following the reopening of indoor dining today, before peaking in September.


“Schools will reopen,” a senior Coalition source said.

A further 1,126 Covid-19 cases were reported yesterday, with 123 people hospitalised with the disease, including 22 in intensive care.


HSE chief executive Paul Reid said almost 70 per cent of adults have now been fully vaccinated, with 83 per cent partially vaccinated. He warned, however, of rising numbers in hospital with the disease and asked people to embrace the reopening of hospitality safely.

Ministers also urged caution in the weeks ahead, with Mr Varadkar saying: “We cannot be complacent. This virus has surprised us many times.”

A staff member in the Dakota bar in Dublin preparing for indoor dining. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Tánaiste added that vaccines, testing and tracing, and interventions such as restrictions on indoor gatherings, mask wearing and respiratory hygiene would be key to controlling the disease.

“There’s a few months to go before we can safely say the pandemic is behind us,” he added.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly asked that people “use the same common sense they have right through this pandemic” when indoor hospitality resumes.

There were warnings yesterday that one-in-four hospitality businesses would not be ready to reopen. Final guidelines and regulations governing the reopening were expected to be signed last night. Restaurants’ Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said there should be enhanced financial supports for the sector once payments linked to their closure were wound down.

The Cabinet will on Tuesday discuss ways to bring clarity on what size of weddings will be permitted in the weeks ahead, and how the vaccination status of guests should be treated. Sources said other relaxations of restrictions are unlikely to be considered.

Support for schools

Minister for Education Norma Foley said “plans are in place to allow for the reopening of schools”. She said it is a priority to support schools “to ensure this can take place in line with their normal planned reopening times”.

The Minister will bring plans to Cabinet on Tuesday outlining enhanced public information campaigns, the outcome of antigen testing pilots, and the purchase of C02 monitors to assist in ventilating classrooms. Capacity limits on school transport services will also remain in place.

With advice expected this week on vaccinating 12-15-year-old children, the State’s immunisation programme continues to emphasise speed in the face of rising infections. Cabinet sources are anxious to see this advice and that the vaccination programme proceed. “I’d really like to see that done without further delay,” one said.

Ministers were told last week that the buffer of Pfizer stock will be run down to 54,000 doses, and stock kept in vaccination centres to 59,000, enough for between one and 1½ days of activity.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times