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new hope Arrival of AstraZeneca vaccine will be a ‘game-changer’, says Taoiseach Micheál Martin


Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: Arthur Carron

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: Arthur Carron

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: Arthur Carron

The arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be a ‘game-changer’ the Taoiseach has declared.

Micheal Martin said he hoped there will be ‘some sort of normality’ in Irish society by the latter half of this year.

The Oxford-developed inoculation is expected to soon get European Medicines Agency approval, and its arrival in Ireland will be met by the expansion of "vaccine centres around the country,” Micheál Martin told TDs.

The availability of a third vaccine — but this time with fewer transport and storage constraints, and the ability to inoculate against Covid-19 with a single jab — will be met by a ramping up of Ireland’s effort to protect its population, he said.

“The vaccination programme, which to me is the light at the end of the tunnel, which will enable us to get back to some normality towards the latter part of this year,” he declared.

Mr Martin said the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was the main instrument to hand and 152,000 doses had arrived into the country, with 142,000 of them already administered.

“We are getting the vaccines out as we get them in,” he insisted in the Dail.

The next stage would be to involve GPs and pharmacists in administering the jabs on foot of an agreement newly arrived at, he said, while he also foresaw some retired medical professionals being called into action as the rollout gathers pace.

But RISE TD Paul Murphy told him: “Your failure to follow the public health advice is responsible for Ireland having the worst rate of Covid infection in the world.

“It’s responsible for hundreds of tragic deaths — that were avoidable on November 26, NPHET (the National Public Health Emergency Team) wrote to the Government and said unambiguously that it recommends that the hospitality sector remained closed over an eight week period.”

Mr Murphy said: “The Government broke that advice under the pressure of business lobbying and decided to open pubs and restaurants. At the time I said it was a recipe for seeding the virus across Dublin for a couple of weeks and then spreading it right across the country. The Taoiseach ignored me and other Socialist TDs.”

But Mr Martin countered: “I would also say that the Government has followed, broadly speaking, Nphet advice from the get-go.”

And he appeared to blame the open border for the dramatic worsening of the situation as the mutant Kent variation of the virus was brought into Ireland.

“The situation in Northern Ireland is problematic,” the Taoiseach said. “Even when we banned flights from the UK into the Republic, people flew into Belfast — and the prospect of sealing the border between the North and the Republic is not a reality.”

Sealing the border “is not something that anyone has suggested we do, and that's the only realistic way that one could have a zero Covid strategy or alternatively, a two-islands approach between the UK and Ireland,” he said.

In fact Independent Louth TD Peter Fitzpatrick suggest that the Defence Forces be sent to the border last November, only to have the idea firmly ruled out by the Tánaiste.

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