Plans to further reopen the country on July 5th will not be affected by the potential spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19, the Government expects.
Senior Cabinet figures confirmed the position amid increasing concern over the variant, first identified in India, which is at least 60 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant. July 5 th is earmarked for the return of indoor hospitality, numbers attending larger indoor events to increase to 100, indoor exercise and sports activities to return and people permitted visitors from up to three other households.
The Government view is that the Irish vaccination program will be a useful barrier to the new variant with a govt official saying that “We have the benefit in Ireland in that there is a shorter time period between the first and second dose of AstraZeneca, unlike the UK where they pushed out the period in order to vaccinate as many people as possible.”
The vaccine taskforce met yesterday to discuss reducing the interval from 12 weeks to eight weeks and to discuss the administration of vaccines by pharmacists. Sources said people who received their first dose of AstraZeneca, including those in their 60s, would begin receiving texts in the coming weeks informing them of earlier second doses than had been scheduled. Reopening plans have also been bolstered by anticipated large deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines by the end of June. Large deliveries of Pfizer vaccines are also expected, with 317,000 due to arrive next week. That will lead to nine weeks’ worth of vaccination being compressed into five, in what is a significant acceleration of the State programme.
The Cabinet will meet today and is expected to decide to increase the self-isolation period for travellers from Britain from five to 10 days for partially vaccinated people. Fully vaccinated passengers will face no quarantine. Meanwhile, visa-free travel between Ireland and 12 countries with variants of concern will be restored on Tuesday – this is for Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, Suriname and Uruguay.