Stephen Donnelly calls reopening plan "good" but "not without risk"
"The risks are real," the Health Minister said.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has called the plan announced by Government on Tuesday to ease remaining Covid-19 restrictions over September and October as "good" but "not without risk".
Under the roadmap announced, the final set of restrictions - including requirements for physical distancing and requirements for mask-wearing outdoors and in indoor private settings - are planned to be lifted on 22 October.
Meanwhile, 6 September will see an increase in the number of people allowed to attend outdoor sporting events and indoor nightclub trails will begin, while the phased return of workers to offices will also take place on 20 September.
Appearing on Morning Ireland, the Health Minister was asked about the challenge in containing the Delta wave of Covid-19, while enabling the gradual return to normal life.
In response, he said: "It's a good plan but it's not without risk. On the positive side, we have a fantastic vaccination programme. We've the second highest uptake of vaccines anywhere in Europe.
"Our testing and tracing system is excellent and there's been a lot of additional capacity added to the hospital sector.
"On the risk side, the risks are real. We've the highest Covid rate right now anywhere in the EU.
"What I'm more concerned about than that is in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, we're looking at very very serious spikes.
"So we have to be careful. We have to avoid happening in the Republic what we're seeing happen in Scotland right now."
The Health Minister said the Government wanted to take a "cautious path" and said the "phased approach" of its plan will allow Ireland to reopen the remaining parts of the economy and society while "keeping an eye" on the threat of Delta.
"From my perspective, it is a good plan. There are risks. I would ask anyone who is still thinking about getting vaccinated, please, please, get vaccinated. It's so important," Donnelly said.
On the reason for the 22 October date, Donnelly added: "We were presented with four potential future scenarios at the Covid committee last Friday by NPHET.
"One of them, the most optimistic, showed things beginning to improve relatively soon.
"The other three showed cases continuing to rise until about mid-October and then beginning to stabilise.
"Hence, we've chosen the week after that... as a time when we'll have had a time to see the impact of schools, the impact of returning to work, the impact of returning to education but also the impact of more and more people being vaccinated."
For the exact dates for when you can expect each of the sectors to reopen, check out JOE's handy guide here.
Main image via Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie