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'brutal year' Health Minister insists Government lifting Covid restrictions 'as quickly as possible'

The Government expects that restrictions would be lifted “this calendar year”

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Health Minister Stephen Donnelly

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that the Government will continue to lift Covid-19 restrictions “as quickly as possible” and that all remaining Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted before Christmas.

He said this morning that there would still be public health advice for situations where infection rates are higher, however, the Government expects that restrictions would be lifted “this calendar year”.

“Obviously specific dates would be something that we would be looking to Nphet for and we will be discussing at Cabinet. But yes, the view would be that we would be open this calendar year,” he said at Croke Park.

“What we would like is a lifting of all restrictions as quickly as possible. There may be restrictions that we may get public health advice to keep with for some time, for example, the higher risk environments where people should wear masks.

When asked if he thinks that it will be before Christmas when all restrictions on indoor capacity limits are lifted, he said: “Yes, I do.”

“What we want to do is we want to provide real certainty for people. It’s been a brutal year and a half,” he added.

He said that while the Delta variant has meant that the current epidemiological situation is “as dangerous now as any stage since Covid arrived”, the plan is to proceed with the next phase of reopening.

The Government is currently working on a roadmap on the lifting of all restrictions, which will be published next week.

Nphet will meet tomorrow and advise the government in a meeting with Ministers on Friday. A full Cabinet meeting will then take place next Tuesday, when the roadmap will be revealed.

Meanwhile, Minister Donnelly also said that he will not be attending a crunch meeting between the live events sector and Minister Catherine Martin tomorrow, despite invitation by Minister Martin.

He said that his officials will be at the meeting.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will also send their officials and will not be present for the second time, despite invitation from the Minister for this week’s and last week’s meeting with music industry representatives.

After furious backlash from the live events sector following the Taoiseach’s attendance at Sunday’s All-Ireland final in Croke Park, Minister Donnelly said that he was “concerned” to see the crowds outside the stadium.

“I think the event itself was well run.

“I was concerned by some of the footage we saw after the events in terms of people being very closely together, without masks. Our concern really is for those people themselves,” he said.

“For the people going to them - please don’t let your guard down.”

He also urged people who have been in crowded spaces recently to go and get a free PCR test for “a bit of peace of mind”.

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