Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has confirmed the Government is planning to reopen hairdressers and barbers in May.
Speaking today on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he suggested while it may not be the start of the month, the move is expected as part of the phased reopening.
“We’ll sit down in a few weeks and lay out a plan for May and what we’re planning is to allow more activities, a phased reopening of retail and personal services.
“I’m not saying May 4, but over the course of May, there will be a phased reopening of personal services including hairdressers and barbers.
“Another thing we will be doing at the end of April is to lay out a plan for June and July and that’s looking good but things can go wrong,” Mr Varadkar said.
This will all be dependent on case numbers, vaccination figures, variants and hospitalisation figures.
Mr Varadkar said anyone who has had a first vaccine dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and has a date for their second dose will receive it as scheduled.
The Government previously indicated the window between first and second dose would be widened to 16 weeks from 12, but this will only now apply to people who have not received any vaccine as of yet.
“They have been given the date at this stage and they are also generally the people at highest risk so it makes sense to fully protect them, in my view,” the Tánaiste said.
Mr Varadkar said if Ireland goes to longer intervals between doses, it would be among younger age groups who do not have any medical vulnerabilities.
“There are actually pros and cons to this, though. We would be giving more people some protection more quickly, but we would have fewer people fully protected.
It is something “open for consideration,” the Tánaiste said.
Mr Varadkar said if people refused a vaccine offered to them such as AstraZeneca, they would have to wait until “the end” to receive another vaccine.
“They would have to wait until the end and we don’t know when that will be, it won’t be June or July,” Mr Varadkar said.
The Tánaiste reiterated that any vaccine that is offered to any age group is deemed safe for use within that group.
“The best vaccine is the one that’s offered to you”.
Mr Varadkar said people aged 60-64 were 85 times more likely to die from Covid than they were to have a serious side effect or die from a clotting event due to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“Those are pretty good odds. This has a pretty good safety profile actually, ” he said.
Mr Varadkar said we have had to change our vaccine programme “up to 20 or 25 times” due to decisions from the EMA, from NIAC or from supply issues.
“Just in the last few days we have had to change it due to news from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and from Pfizer”.
He said the HSE and its vaccinators have “proven to be extremely agile” and said he is “confident” that Ireland will meet its target of 80pc of adults offered a vaccine by June.
“We’re on track to ease restrictions as planned from May 4 and to have 80pc of people receiving a vaccine by the end of June”.
Mr Varadkar said the Government is exploring the option of exempting fully vaccinated people from mandatory hotel quarantine, and pointed towards CDC guidance that fully vaccinated people should be allowed to travel.
“We could have a scenario where within a few months people can travel freely within the EU as long as they’re fully vaccinated, but we have to embrace the science that the CDC are embracing,” he said.
Responding to opposition criticism of a lack of foresight on the mandatory hotel quarantine system, the Tánaiste said: “It’s not just about hotel beds, people from the very start have been far too simplistic about what mandatory hotel quarantine involves. It’s a system and it is not just about hotel beds.
“You’re going to see an issue now where people will go through Northern Ireland to avoid the quarantine. It’s illegal but unfortunately it’s going to happen”.
While the Tánaiste acknowledged there was “a lot on (Health Minister) Stephen Donnelly’s plate” with regard to establishing the hotel quarantine system on top of the health portfolio, he said “he didn’t think” it was too much.
Mr Varadkar said there were “legal and humanitarian issues” with the system that was established quickly and these are “now playing out in the form of court challenges”.
The Tánaiste said that some people were “trying to have it both ways” by calling for mandatory quarantine and then “not liking the consequences of it”.
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