Leo Varadkar promises "very positive" announcement on travel, events and reopening of society
"I think we can look forward to a very positive announcement on Friday in relation to the reopening of our society."
Tánaiste Leo Vardkar has said that Friday's announcement on the return of travel and events will likely be a "very positive" one as hospitalisations continue to remain stable.
The Tánaiste said that people have "every reason to be hopeful for the summer ahead" ahead of the announcement on the further easing of restrictions, which is expected to be made by the Taoiseach on Friday.
"The people of Ireland have every reason to be hopeful for the summer ahead. The number of people in hospital is below 100, the number of people in ICU is below 50," he told the Dáil on Thursday.
"The cases are stable at around 400, 500, as I predicted they would be several months ago, but wouldn't fall much below that given the level of reopening.
"We are ahead of ourselves in terms of where we thought we would be in terms of hospitalisations and for that reason I think we can look forward to a very positive announcement on Friday in relation to the reopening of our society and our economy and the phased return to international travel and events."
Varadkar confirmed that there is a risk that the target of vaccinating 80% of the adult population by June will be missed, adding that the Government "hope to be able to provide revised targets" as part of the announcement on Friday.
"The vaccine programme is going really well. I think most people acknowledge that," he said.
"As we have always said, the only constraint would be supply... the targets that we gave were always caveated on supply and that was very clear from the Taoiseach at the time."
Varadkar added that if the vaccine target is missed it will likely only be by "a few weeks".
The Tánaiste was also questioned by Labour TD Alan Kelly on the possibility of pushing forward the gap between the first and second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to eight weeks.
Varadkar said that although the manufacturer says a 56-day gap would be okay, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) advice is still that the interval should remain 12 weeks.
Commenting on the vaccine issue earlier on Thursday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that there may be a "significant under-delivery" of Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
As a result, the Minister added that he is "unclear" whether it will be possible to meet the Government target of 80% of adults receiving one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of June.
Donnelly told the Dáil on Thursday morning that there are also "questions around" the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Ireland.
He said that he was "just off the phone to the task force", who cited "serious concerns over the supply of the Janssen vaccine".
Donnelly said that Ireland had a contract for 600,000 J&J vaccines for June, but that under-delivery of the vaccine means that, in a best-case scenario, 235,000 vaccines will arrive and, in a worst-case scenario, 60,000 vaccines will be delivered.
"In short, it looks like we're going to get a significant under-delivery on Jansen, and there are question marks over what is going to come in from AstraZeneca," he said.