Simon Harris says Ireland is "just about ahead" in race between Delta variant and vaccines
"It is in many ways a race between the vaccines and the variant at the moment."
Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has said that Ireland is "just about ahead" in the race between the Delta variant and the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
The Minister said that there is a need to be "concerned" about the variant, stressing the importance of the country not getting "complacent" as the vaccination rollout continues.
"Well, I think we need to be concerned about it, and to be honest I think there is no harm in all of us keeping a vigilance around Covid right now," he said on Ireland AM on Wednesday.
"I heard you talking earlier about the rollout of the vaccine programme and the likes, the next few weeks are really important. Because, if we can get to a point in July where 70% of our population are fully vaccinated, we will have huge protection.
"The good news is, the vaccines work against the Delta variant. It is in many ways a race between the vaccines and the variant - at the moment, we're just about ahead in that race, but we can't be in any way complacent."
Harris added that while the UK has had to put a pause on its reopening, Ireland's reopening schedule should remain on track due to it being less "ambitious" than the UK model.
"Look, I think what's happened in the UK, not for me to comment too much on the UK. But, this idea of 'freedom day' and all this political bombast, the virus doesn't work like that," he continued.
"I always thought the UK plan, it's their right to have a plan, it did seem extremely ambitious. So, when people say 'oh, Boris stalled his reopening', I think it's important to say, he was a lot further down the road than we were.
"I think they were talking about opening nightclubs in the UK, we're not there yet."
Harris also said that while plans for reopening are still "on track", there is a need to be "vigilant" as the country approaches "that final hurdle".
"Our plans are going well, they're on track. But we do need to be vigilant," he said.
"People are sick of us saying this but I genuinely think it's true, we are almost at that final hurdle where we will have enough people in our country fully vaccinated.
"We just need to make sure we don't trip up now."