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not corona stop ‘No reason to believe’ fourth lockdown on way with Delta – Leo Varadkar

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Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

TÁNAISTE Leo Varadkar has insisted there is “no reason to believe” a fourth lockdown will be imposed on the country despite the looming threat of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Mr Varadkar said yesterday that there will be a fourth wave of the pandemic over the coming summer months and admitted that at this point the Government do not know how long it will last or how bad it will be.

However, he insisted the country would “weather through” another spike in new cases by ramping up vaccinations, keeping the current restrictions in place and introducing vaccine passes for indoor dining.

“There is no reason to believe that we will be forced to go into a fourth lockdown because of the variant,” Mr Varadkar told the Irish Independent.

“We can still have an outdoor summer, holiday and look forward to schools and colleges going back safely in September when all adults are vaccinated.

“And we may be vaccinating teenagers at that point too.”

The Tánaiste’s intervention follows dire warnings from Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan about an unstoppable fourth wave caused by the more transmissible Delta variant.

At a weekly National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) press conference, Mr Holohan said he could not rule out the possibility of Covid-19 restrictions being reimposed due to the Delta variant.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin also struck a more cautious tone than the Tánaiste saying: “We need to get it into our heads that the Delta variant is real and it is going to happen.”

Speaking at an event in Limerick, Mr Martin said: “If the forecasts don’t turn out as bad as people have said, well that’s good news all round but we have to take on board what has been forecasted and deal decisively with that.”

He said the strain currently accounted for 55pc of all new cases and said he expected that to increase significantly when the Government was next briefed on the spread of the virus this coming Monday.

The Taoiseach’s comments came as the Department of Health reported 512 new Covid-19 cases.

However, there were just 46 people in hospital due to the virus with 14 of those in intensive care units (ICU).

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Mr Varadkar said daily figures would rise and that “might be alarming”, but urged the public to “keep a closer eye” on the number of people in hospital and ICU.

“The link between testing positive and severe illness has been dramatically weakened due the vaccines,” he said.

“The best thing you can do is to get vaccinated as soon as you are offered one and be sure to get a second dose,” he added.

Mr Varadkar urged unvaccinated people to avoid unnecessary indoor gatherings as they would lead to “super spreader events”.

Despite the threat of the Delta variant, plans to lift restrictions on international travel for people who have been vaccinated, have a negative PCR Covid test or have recovered from the virus in the last nine months are still going ahead.

The Cabinet is not due to officially sign off on new travel regulations next week but planning is currently on-going to introduce EU Digital Covid Certificates for foreign travel on July 19.

People who signed up for a vaccine though the HSE’s online portal will be emailed a QR (quick response) code which they will be able to download on to their phones or print off on to paper.

The codes can then be scanned at airports when traveling outside of Ireland.

People who have been vaccinated by GPs or pharmacists will be posted a paper code under plans being discussed by the Government.

The Digital Covid Certificate will include a person’s name, date of birth, vaccine ID and issue date.

Once scanned it will show whether a person has been vaccinated, recovered from Covid in the last nine months or received a negative PCR or antigen test result.

Antigen tests will not be accepted as means of avoiding quarantine when travelling into Ireland.

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