Government Ministers have signalled they want as wide a reopening as possible in May as the State’s vaccination programme continues to suffer from supply shortfalls and restrictions on the use of jabs.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar became the latest Minister to suggest that the reopening of social and economic life in May and June is on track, following optimistic comments by the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, and Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris in recent days.
The Cabinet agreed on Tuesday to proceed as planned with the further gradual easing of a number of restrictions from Monday, according to The Irish Times. This includes the reopening of facilities for outdoor sports, including golf and tennis, and outdoor visitor attractions including zoos and heritage sites.
The maximum attendance at funerals will increase to 25 but the ban on other gatherings remains.
Senior Government sources indicated to The Irish Times on Tuesday night that they expect further easing to proceed briskly over the next two months, with the potential for some sectors to be accelerated if case numbers continue to decline.
It is understood, however, that there is resistance to some aspects of reopening from public health officials who prefer a more cautious timetable, and aspects of the plans remain under discussion.
There are also intense discussions going on in Government over the vaccination programme. Disruption and delay to vaccine deliveries mean the State will struggle to hit its slimmed-down ambition of 860,000 doses in April, and presents a headwind for the target of giving a single dose to 80 per cent of adults by the end of June.
“We’re working towards that as best we can,” HSE vaccination lead Damien McCallion told the Oireachtas Committee on Health on Tuesday, but he added: “There are very significant supply challenges.”
AstraZeneca again cut its delivery volumes for a shipment scheduled on April 24th from 45,000 to just 9,000, while a delivery of 165,000 doses due on April 30th has been delayed until May 3rd.
He said the HSE expects to receive 800,000 doses in April, 1.4 million in May and 1.6 million in June. Between 140,000 and 160,000 doses will be given this week.