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teenage kicks Covid restrictions to be eased next month once 90 percent of over-16s are vaccinated

A Cabinet committee is set to decide the way forward

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Arts Minister Catherine Martin says waiting for more than 90pc of over-16s to be vaccinated would lead to an "unacceptable" delay for reopening the live events sector. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Arts Minister Catherine Martin says waiting for more than 90pc of over-16s to be vaccinated would lead to an "unacceptable" delay for reopening the live events sector. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Arts Minister Catherine Martin says waiting for more than 90pc of over-16s to be vaccinated would lead to an "unacceptable" delay for reopening the live events sector. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Ministers are set to push ahead with the phased return to the office and seek to ease restrictions on communions, confirmations and live entertainment events from next month.

It comes as Nphet signalled all remaining Covid-19 restrictions can be eased once 90pc of over-16s are fully vaccinated.

Senior coalition figures believe chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan's latest letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly gives the Government leeway to begin easing more restrictions from next month.

However, a row is brewing in Government Buildings after Arts and Culture Minister Catherine Martin told colleagues last night that waiting for more than 90pc of over-16s to be vaccinated would lead to an "unacceptable" delay in re- opening the live events sector.

She has conveyed this to government figures.

Ms Martin is expected to attend today's cabinet Covid sub-committee meeting, at which the return of live entertainment is expected to be discussed, including the Electric Picnic music festival.

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People watch a music performance in the Walled garden in Dublin's Marlay Park, one of a season of of summer shows being staged by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. Photo: Peter Kavanagh

People watch a music performance in the Walled garden in Dublin's Marlay Park, one of a season of of summer shows being staged by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. Photo: Peter Kavanagh

People watch a music performance in the Walled garden in Dublin's Marlay Park, one of a season of of summer shows being staged by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. Photo: Peter Kavanagh

Ms Martin is looking at "all options" to allow the festival to go ahead and is engaging with ministerial colleagues, her spokesperson said yesterday.

The Herald yesterday revealed Tánaiste Leo was likely to intervene in the row over the Laois music festival and urge cabinet colleagues to find a way to allow it to go ahead.

The committee will meet today to hammer out the details of the next phase of reopening, which will be published next Tuesday.

"We are heading in the right direction toward the end of the tunnel," a senior government source said last night.

"The priorities in September are schools, colleges, workplaces and vaccination."

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Public health officials believe the requirement to wear face masks in crowded spaces such as shops and on public transport - which is set to return to 100pc capacity from next Wednesday - should remain for the foreseeable future.

However, the easing of many of the legal restrictions is likely to take place once the 90pc vaccination threshold is reached.

"By and large, we are on the path out of this. We've run a very good vaccine race that is going to see us on a path to further reopening.

"I don't see anything that is going to divert us from the path we're on," a second senior government source said last night.

Dr Holohan's letter to Mr Donnelly contains a recommendation that the remaining public health restrictions should not be eased until such time as 90pc of the population over 16 are fully vaccinated and two weeks has passed for the jab to take full effect.

Dr Holohan told a Nphet press briefing on Tuesday it would be toward the end of next month before it would be considered safe for activities to resume without the need to check a person's vaccination pass.

The growth in the rate of the disease among 16 to 29-year-olds is now starting to come down, although this cohort remains responsible for most new cases.

While more than 84pc of people over 16 overall are fully vaccinated, within this only half of 16 to 29-year-olds are double-jabbed.

Many of this cohort are expected to be offered a first and/or second dose in the coming weeks, with the HSE expected to finish out this cohort toward the end of September or early October.

The health service is to operate a series of walk-in vaccination centres this weekend in a further push to encourage young people to take up the vaccine.

There has, however, been a spike in cases among under-16s and over-35s in recent weeks, according to data presented to the Government's vaccine task force on Monday.

Dr Holohan's letter notes Ireland currently has the third-highest incidence rate in Europe, with spikes of the disease in the border counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal.

The incidence rate of the virus in the North is somewhere between two and 2.5 times the rate in the Republic and growing at a faster rate.

The return to the workplace is likely to begin on a phased basis, with employers still required to implement some public health measures such as social distancing of at least one metre.

Mr Varadkar also wants to reopen bingo halls, bowling alleys, fitness, yoga and dance classes and studios to people with a Covid pass.

However, one source said the letter from Nphet is unclear on whether other sectors could be opened up to people under the Covid pass system being used for indoor hospitality.

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