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music to our ears Electric Picnic and spectators at All Ireland final may be possible this year, says Tony Holohan 

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Hozier fans at Electric Picnic in 2019

Hozier fans at Electric Picnic in 2019

Hozier fans at Electric Picnic in 2019

Festivals such as Electric Picnic and spectators at the All Ireland final are not off the cards if there is a high-up take in vaccination, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has said.

He also said thinking about foreign travel may be a possibility in the “near to medium term”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Dr Holohan said he would “really like to think” that spectators will be allowed at this year's All Ireland GAA finals.

"One of the things that are going to be important in all of that, as well as keeping the disease at very low levels of transmission through continued observance of public health measures, would be getting the vaccine uptake as high as possible,” he said.

“The more people we get vaccinated the higher the chance we have of getting a return of all the things we dearly want to see.”

The CMO said he wouldn’t make “an absolute prediction” if Electric Picnic could go ahead this year, but if the country had “really good progress” it can be thought about.

"I would like to think if we were in a situation where we had really good progress in terms of the vaccine where we didn't run into difficulties with variants and so on we could have some of the things like outdoor events of the kind that you described, they might be things we can think about,” he said.

On foreign travel, Dr Holohan said the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is operating with “everything that’s happening on an EU level”.

The EU Covid-19 vaccination certificate is due to get the green light by the end of June. This would allow anyone who has been fully vaccinated, has a negative test or has recently recovered from the disease be allowed travel within the EU.

"Like any other activity [foreign travel will resume] when we think it’s appropriate and safe,” Dr Holohan said.

"But, we are getting nearer to a point in which our vaccination rates and vaccination rates in other countries allow us to start thinking over the near to medium term when it will become appropriate.

“I’m not in a position to confirm exactly when that will be and any assessment we would make on that would be advice given to Government and they would decide.”

The CMO said he is awaiting a response from the National Immunisation Advisory Council (Niac) in the coming days of whether the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be used in under 50s.

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The vaccine, along with AstraZeneca, has been restricted for use in over 50s due to a rare side effect of blood clots in younger people.

Niac has been asked to consider lowering this age as a large shipment of Johnson & Johnson is due to arrive in June.

If approved, around 200,000 people aged between 45-49 could be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in June.

“The programme is working through May to get people over the age of 50 and all the high-risk groups vaccinated,” Dr Holohan said.

"At the end of the month if we’ve substantially gotten through those groups and then the question arises of what happens with those vaccines that’s why we need that advice.”

When asked what will happen if Niac doesn’t approve Johnson & Johnson for use in younger age groups, he said: “At the moment I’m not concluding that we can’t use J&J.

“We would have vaccines to offer in all the age groups for whom the vaccine is recommended. As for which vaccine for what particular age groups, that's going to depend on the advice.”

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