The Tánaiste has said he is hopeful Ireland can return to “close to normality” by late summer.
Leo Varadkar told the Oireachtas Enterprise, Trade and Employment Committee: “I’m very hopeful that we can return to something close to normality by late summer.
“It has been an extremely long road for everyone – for workers, businesses, friends and family – but I think our patience will have been worth it.”
He added: “It is certainly our hope and intention to allow indoor dining to resume in July, hopefully in early July, and also some mass events as well.”
The Fine Gael leader said the State’s vaccination programme is “picking up momentum”, administering about 270,000 vaccines per week.
“Nearly 40 per cent of our adult population has had at least one dose now and we hope to have the vast majority of our adult population at least once by the end of June and fully by end of September,” he added.
Mr Varadkar told TDs and Senators the Government expects to be in a position to publish the National Economic Recovery Plan in the next two weeks and that it will outline “targeted assistance for sectors which will continue to be most adversely affected by the pandemic”.
“It will outline the next steps for the emergency pandemic interventions, including the PUP and EWSS, reaffirming the Government’s commitment to avoid a cliff-edge,” he said, adding that at the same time “they cannot continue indefinitely”.
Aer Lingus cuts
Mr Varadkar described the decision by Aer Lingus to close its Shannon crew base to reduce costs as “extremely unwelcome”.
He admitted it was down to the Government’s restrictions but he said he does not regret the decision to impose strict travel rules.
“The closure of the cabin crew base in Shannon wasn’t expected,” he said.
“It is down to the pandemic and to the fact that people just aren’t travelling.
“And it is also down to the restrictions the Government imposed.”
Mr Varadkar added: “In the real world planes can be moved out of Ireland very easily to places like Manchester and that is one of the consequences of the very strict travel restrictions in Ireland.
“I don’t regret doing them by the way. We have one of the lowest death rates per million population in Europe – only Finland and Denmark have seen fewer deaths per millions than Ireland has and some of that is down to our very strict travel rules and the fact that we’re an island, but it does have consequences.”