The Tánaiste is “not as confident” about the pace of the Republic’s reopening as he was some days ago.
Leo Varadkar told an online event hosted by Goodbody Stockbrokers that there was some concern in Government that Covid-19 cases could rise in the coming days.
The Irish Times reports that Mr Varadkar said he was “not as confident as I might have been a few days ago” about the pace of reopening, ahead of the confirmation of 401 further cases and 15 deaths on Wednesday.
The “experience of December-January” made Government “more risk-averse” on reopening, he added.
The Fine Gael leader said it was likely to be “June-July at this stage” before a further reopening of hospitality and indoor gatherings was allowed.
Plans for the further easing of restrictions would be approved next week, Mr Varadkar said.
It comes as the number of Covid-19 cases confirmed each day in the Republic could fall to just over 220 per day by mid-May, according to a new forecast hub launched by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
The Irish Examiner reports that the hub also predicts the number of daily deaths in the Republic will fall to five per day over the same period.
The ECDC hub includes forecasts by a range of different scientific groups, with some models accounting for changes in behaviour, “pandemic fatigue”, the vaccine rollout and newly emerging variants — the majority of which predict a continuing decline in Irish Covid infections in Ireland over the coming weeks.
One US modelling group suggests that case numbers could rise in early May, before beginning to plateau again.
It is possible to pull all predictions together in a single ‘ensemble’ forecast, which suggests that infection rates will continue to fall in Ireland over the next four weeks, possibly to 1,558 cases a week or 222 cases per day by May 15th.
The Government's current focus is on a further easing of domestic restrictions in May, with the reopening of hairdressers, non-essential retail and religious services to be prioritised following the return of some outdoor activities next week.
International holidays and other non-essential trips abroad will resume in “months rather than weeks,” according to the Minister for Transport.
Eamon Ryan said he could see a case where Irish citizens with a vaccine certificate could travel for non-essential reasons such as holidays, but that would be months away.
With a further reopening largely dependent on the contined vaccine rollout, people aged between 60 and 64 will be able to register online for a Covid-19 vaccination from Friday.
The Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is expected to roll out in Ireland as early as next week, following approval from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).
On Wednesday night, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting the Government could still hit its target of vaccinating 80 per cent of adults by the end of June – if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is cleared.
Mr Varadkar warned the target may be hindered by a lack of supply and people not taking up the vaccine as case numbers drop.
Meanwhile, nine public hospitals around the country are treating fewer than two Covid-19 patients each.
There are a total of 179 people in hospital — the lowest number since last October.