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Lockdown latest Taoiseach reveals he 'can see spectators coming back' to sporting events this year

Micheal Martin also said there would continue to be a “nervousness” about the autumn and winter period as there is seasonality attached to Covid-19

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said he can see spectators returning to sporting events in Ireland this year, but he said he could not guarantee what numbers will be allowed to attend.

Mr Martin said it was too early to predict how many would be allowed to attend events as it will be dependent on the vaccine rollout.

The Fianna Fail leader also said once restrictions are eased and sectors reopen he wants to ensure they remain open.

His comments come as Dublin was stood down as a host city for the delayed Euro 2020 tournament due to Ireland’s public health restrictions.

The capital’s games have been moved to Russia and London because Irish authorities had been unable to provide minimum capacity assurances to Uefa.

We want to make decisions that are long-lasting. Not short term, start, stop, close down again. That really is soul-destroying for many people in different sectorsMicheal Martin

“I can see spectators coming back at some stage, in what numbers I’m not precise about,” Mr Martin told Newstalk FM’s The Hard Shoulder programme.

“I think vaccination has to happen to a very significant degree and there will be a valuation of the vaccination programme.

“What I can see happening is gradually we can open up sectors. But once we open up sectors we want them to stay open.

“We want to make decisions that are long-lasting. Not short term, start, stop, close down again. That really is soul-destroying for many people in different sectors.”

Mr Martin also said there would continue to be a “nervousness” about the autumn and winter period as there is seasonality attached to Covid-19.

“We need to tread with a bit of caution through the winter but I do think we can open up over time. We need to do it cautiously.”

Earlier, a senior Government official warned Ireland is facing its “trickiest moment” as it begins to ease Covid-19 public health restrictions.

Liz Canavan, assistant secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach, said people can afford to be “cautiously optimistic” but they need to “stay vigilant”.

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Liz Canavan, assistant secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

Liz Canavan, assistant secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

Liz Canavan, assistant secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

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“We need a bit more time to ensure that those who are most vulnerable are vaccinated and a higher proportion of the broader population is vaccinated,” Ms Canavan said.

“What we’re doing is working so we can afford to be cautiously optimistic.

“We should be able to look forward to further relaxation of restrictions in the coming months but we still have to go easy for the next while.

“The careful and staggered relaxing of restrictions has to be at just the right pace so that we do not get ahead of ourselves so the disease incidence and the protection the vaccine brings are not in balance.

“Arguably this is the trickiest moment and we don’t want to mis-step now.”

Ms Canavan appealed to people to continue to adhere to public health guidelines.

She said there would be a further easing of restrictions from next week and that the Government would also be considering “what’s possible for May and beyond”.

From Monday non-contact outdoor sports activities, such as golf and tennis, can resume, outdoor visitor attractions, such as zoos, wildlife parks and pet farms, can reopen and the maximum attendance at funerals will be increased to 25.

Her comments come as the chairman of the GP Committee of the Irish Medical Organisation said he believes the Government can still meet its target of vaccinating 80% of the population by June.

Dr Denis McCauley told RTE’s Morning Ireland programme he believes the rollout of the vaccination programme is going well.

The Government has a target of 250,000 weekly doses of the vaccine being administered.

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People walk past a new mural at Dublin’s Grand Canal Docks by the artist Chels (Chelsea Jacobs) (Niall Carson/PA)

People walk past a new mural at Dublin’s Grand Canal Docks by the artist Chels (Chelsea Jacobs) (Niall Carson/PA)

People walk past a new mural at Dublin’s Grand Canal Docks by the artist Chels (Chelsea Jacobs) (Niall Carson/PA)

“The vaccination programme is going well,” Dr McCauley said.

“We’re along the European average, we’re doing as well as we can.

“If you compare us with Denmark, the only difference is they got extra Pfizer so I think we should be pleased.

“The infrastructure and the people are working hard, as soon as we get vaccines we’re giving it.”

Friday saw the Department of Health confirm one further death linked to Covid-19 and 434 new cases of the virus.

Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population now stands at 117. The five-day moving average is 448.

On Friday morning there were 166 people with Covid-19 in hospital, 48 of whom were in ICU.

According to the latest HSE figures a total of 1,275,828 doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in Ireland up to Friday.

Some 23% of the population has received one dose, while almost 10% have received two doses.

As of Friday people aged 64 are being urged to register to receive the vaccine through the HSE’s online portal.

Registration will be available for people aged between 63 and 60 over the coming days.

To date more than 165,000 people between 64 and 69 years have registered for the jab through the portal.

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