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No complacency Taoiseach says vaccine will ‘motivate’ people into following Covid-19 rules

The vaccine is expected to be available in Ireland from January.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the imminent arrival of a coronavirus vaccine will “motivate” people into following pandemic health rules (Brian Lawless/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the imminent arrival of a coronavirus vaccine will “motivate” people into following pandemic health rules (Brian Lawless/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the imminent arrival of a coronavirus vaccine will “motivate” people into following pandemic health rules (Brian Lawless/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the imminent arrival of a coronavirus vaccine will “motivate” people into following pandemic health rules.

Rejecting suggestions a vaccine could lead to complacency among the public, Mr Martin said the vaccines must be seen as a “tool” and an “extra weapon” in the country’s armoury to tackle the virus.

The Government and the HSE said it was realistic that Ireland would start its vaccination programme early next month.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin warned that “personal behaviour” was very important when considering the risks of reopening the economy and society (Niall Carson/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin warned that “personal behaviour” was very important when considering the risks of reopening the economy and society (Niall Carson/PA)

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin warned that “personal behaviour” was very important when considering the risks of reopening the economy and society (Niall Carson/PA)

As coronavirus restrictions eased and thousands of restaurants, cafes and gastropubs reopened their doors, Mr Martin warned about the risks attached to reopening the economy and society.

“Personal responsibility and collective responsibility is going to be central to all of this,” he said.

“Without doubt there are risks, so personal behaviour is very important.

“There is, from a social, economic and mental wellbeing perspective, an importance to be attached to the opening of restaurants and non-essential retail.”

People’s aspirations over Christmas are grounded in realismMicheal Martin

Speaking after visiting the Book Of Kells at Trinity College Dublin, Mr Martin said people realise the vaccine won’t be immediately rolled out across the country.

“People will say: ‘Look it’s been a terrible year. We’re fatigued, we’re fed up of all of the restrictions but the vaccines are coming’,” he said.

“If (they) keep doing what they’re doing, there is a very good chance of emerging from this in the best possible way, in terms of the economy relatively intact and in a position to try and reboot it and reignite it and get it going again, and also protecting public health.

“The arrival of vaccines must be seen as a tool, as an extra weapon in our armoury to deal with this terrible virus.”

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

Mr Martin said he believes a lot of people are adhering to the guidelines and will follow the rules over the festive period.

“It’s been very difficult for people and I think people are very conscientious over Christmas actually,” he added.

“This can go either way but my sense of people’s commitment and personal behaviour is that people are strongly working to make sure that they or their family don’t get the virus.

“That’s my sense talking to people, talking to my own friends, talking to my family. I get that sense strongly that there is a desire to, by and large, follow the guidelines over the Christmas period and to get through it.

“People’s aspirations over Christmas are grounded in realism.

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Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he had mixed feelings about easing the restrictions (Julien Behal/PA)

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he had mixed feelings about easing the restrictions (Julien Behal/PA)

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Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he had mixed feelings about easing the restrictions (Julien Behal/PA)

The reopening of restaurants, cafes and gastropubs comes after six weeks of Level Five restrictions which saw businesses shut all over the country.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe admitted to having mixed feelings about it, with the Government attempting to balance public health advice with the needs of business.

He said: “The feelings I have about that do reflect many of the decisions I’ve been involved in during the year.

“On the one hand, it is so tremendous that we are going to see tens of thousands of our fellow citizens go back to work this week.

“We have two jobs in our country across 2021 in particular that will be so important: beat Covid and get our country back to work. To see so many go back to work this week is essential.

“But, on the other hand, it’s equally essential that when we are in our restaurants, when we are in our pubs that are open, when we’re in our hotels, we have to respect not only the livelihoods of those who are looking after us but their health as well.”

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Schoolhouse hotel and pub co-owner Karen O’Flaherty sets the table inside their ‘dine-in dome’ in preparation for the first booking at the premises in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Schoolhouse hotel and pub co-owner Karen O’Flaherty sets the table inside their ‘dine-in dome’ in preparation for the first booking at the premises in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Schoolhouse hotel and pub co-owner Karen O’Flaherty sets the table inside their ‘dine-in dome’ in preparation for the first booking at the premises in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Restaurants and gastropubs have been getting creative when organising socially distanced seating.

Karen O’Flaherty, co-owner of the Schoolhouse hotel and pub in Ballsbridge, helped set up a “dine-in dome”.

The polycarbonate dome, which comes equipped with heating and an LED Bluetooth wine cooler, sits outside and holds up to six people.

Ms O’Flaherty said: “We’re really excited about it. I think people are getting more accustomed to eating outside and putting on the big coats so it’s a different experience for everyone.

“We have had to think outside the box in how we train staff and how we facilitate the public and the turnover of the tables but we have tried to embrace all of the changes.”

She added: “Bookings have been very good – we are trying to meet that fine line between what we can cope with and what is safe.

“We are hoping to survive in a very challenging period, keep our staff and we have loyal customers and neighbours.

“We hope it won’t be long into the new year before we are trading in a better environment.”

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Ciaran Kavanagh stands inside John Kavanagh’s bar, locally known as The Gravediggers (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ciaran Kavanagh stands inside John Kavanagh’s bar, locally known as The Gravediggers (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Ciaran Kavanagh stands inside John Kavanagh’s bar, locally known as The Gravediggers (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ciaran Kavanagh, one of the seventh generation of John Kavanagh’s bar, locally known as The Gravediggers, said they are preparing to reopen the lounge seven days a week.

Due to the two lockdowns, the pub’s faced its longest closure since it was established in 1833. Although it opened briefly in August, it was forced to close again after five weeks.

Mr Kavanagh said: “We spent the last lockdown painting and getting things ready and this lockdown we have been waiting and waiting to reopen.

“We didn’t think we would open before Christmas.”

He added: “It’s good for everyone to be back working again for our mental health.

“As there won’t be Christmas parties this year, we hope to get some of that local footfall and the people working from home.”

Meanwhile, senior civil servant Liz Canavan has urged people to maintain their vigilance, saying: “Every contact counts.”

She added: “It’s a weekend where we need to prove to ourselves and one another that we can do these things safely.

“I said it on Monday, and I’ll be saying it from now on until Christmas, so sorry about that – but every contact counts.”

The HSE meanwhile is upping its preparations for the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, which is expected to be available from January.

On Friday, CEO Paul Reid tweeted a photo of nine ultra-low temperature freezers which arrived in the country this week.

He wrote: “We’re preparing for the COVID-19 vaccine roll out in Ireland. At the HSE National Cold Chain Centre, we have received and are currently commissioning & validating a consignment of 9 x Ultra Low Temperature Freezers for storage of the vaccines at -75 degrees.”

Mr Reid told a press briefing this week that Ireland has the capacity to acquire 16 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

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