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Injection of hope Promise of 'better days ahead' for Ireland as first Covid-19 vaccines arrive

'A momentous day’ as first Pfizer BioNTech doses are welcomed into the country

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Health Minister Donnelly, HSE boss Reid and Prof MacCraith welcome the delivery

Health Minister Donnelly, HSE boss Reid and Prof MacCraith welcome the delivery

A small bottle with a giant dose of hope

A small bottle with a giant dose of hope

Doses are carefully brought to the storage area

Doses are carefully brought to the storage area

Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is stored at ultra cold temperatures

Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is stored at ultra cold temperatures

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Health Minister Donnelly, HSE boss Reid and Prof MacCraith welcome the delivery

A promise of 'better days ahead' for Ireland is on the horizon as the first Covid-19 vaccines finally arrived this weekend.

The news came as the level of daily cases hit a record high in Ireland last night at 1,296 as the country wrestles with a third wave of infection.

The surge in cases, described as "very concerning", took the shine off the good news of the vaccine delivery.

The 10,000 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine were delivered to a facility at Citywest before distribution starts on Wednesday, with nursing home residents and frontline healthcare workers first in line to get their dose.

HSE boss Paul Reid described it as a "momentous day" and said "there will be better days ahead for sure".

Prof Luke O'Neill told the Sunday World that the arrival of the vaccine is a huge morale boost after nine months of lockdowns and restrictions.

However, the well-known immunologist warned that we should all strictly observe the restrictions and hygiene rules for the foreseeable future.

"Stick with the plan because we'd be foolish at this stage not to do so, now that we've seen the vaccine has arrived in the country," Prof O'Neill told the Sunday World.

"Can you imagine if the vaccine wasn't here over Christmas? Good God, it would be miserable," he says. "Every European country got 10,000 doses as a Christmas present, as a starter to give people hope. Then they will ramp up supply hugely. For Ireland, 40,000 doses a week will be coming in in January."

"Let's say that against all odds it hadn't worked, can you imagine what we'd be like now? It would be terrible, so we were given a lucky break with this one," he added.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly also witnessed the vaccine delivery which he said will "save many lives".

"After a difficult and different Christmas for many people, it is wonderful to see the first deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines in Ireland today," he said.

He noted the recent increase in cases, and said that safe and effective vaccines will help protect the most vulnerable. Highlighting the need to stick to the current restrictions the Department of Health last night reported a continued rise in coronavirus cases in Ireland.

There was 1,296 new cases reported and six deaths while 260 people remained in hospital, 25 of those in intensive care.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said: "For the second day in a row we are reporting more than a thousand confirmed cases of Covid-19.

"Within a few short weeks of easing measures at the beginning of December, we have now returned to the very high levels of Covid-19 circulating in the community that we have not seen since the peak of wave two of this disease. This is very concerning."

Dr Holohan also confirmed this weekend that a more contagious form of coronavirus has been detected in Ireland.

He said the HSE is making arrangements to test recent UK arrivals and that anyone arriving from the country should strictly self-isolate for a full 14 days after entering Ireland.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, while welcoming the arrival of the vaccine, also warned that life won't return to normal for at least six months. It could be May or June before mass vaccination brings about significant change, he said.

Mr Martin said: "The first six months of 2021 we will see improvements, but we certainly not will see normality."

He added the initial phase would make a "significant difference" and protect the most vulnerable.

"Certainly manufacturing of the vaccine will be ramped up, certainly from March onwards," he said.

The Taoiseach said May and June had been identified as "critical" months.

"From the summer on we will see a degree of normality but I cannot be definite about that."

He said fears over the emergence of the mutant strain of Covid-19 had highlighted continued uncertainty.

But the Taoiseach expressed confidence in vaccine supplies in the long term.

"By the end of January you will have three vaccines and what I am saying is conservative.

"I can also see a scenario where manufacturing ramps up more quickly and where higher volumes of vaccines goes to member states more quickly, that is a more hopeful scenario."

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