Video: Irish citizens stranded in Afghanistan, social distancing relaxation

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Irish citizens stranded in Afghanistan

Work is under way to evacuate the majority of Irish citizens currently in Afghanistan, after the Taliban took control of its capital Kabul.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told Newstalk Breakfast and RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that most of the 23 Irish citizens currently in the country are seeking to leave.

His department is working on plans to get 15 Irish nationals out of Afghanistan, he said.

Most had been booked on commercial flights, but all commercial flights into and out of Kabul airport have been halted so efforts were now being made to coordinate with other EU countries, the US and the UK to try to find routes out for the Irish nationals.

“Some of them would have had bookings and we would have helped them get bookings on commercial flights that have now been cancelled,” Mr Coveney said.

Social distancing rules may be relaxed

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Social distancing rules could be relaxed as part of a new roadmap for easing Covid-19 restrictions in Ireland.

The Irish Times reports that draft plans suggest a significant shift in how Covid-19 is managed in the State, away from regulation and population-wide restrictions and towards a focus on public health advice and personal judgment.

However, any such changes would be dependent on strict targets being met, the draft plans drawn up by public health officials say.

Moving to this point would be dependent on the disease remaining under control and extremely high levels of vaccination, upwards of 85 to 90 per cent of the over-16s, outline plans discussed last month envisage.

Ireland to halt AstraZeneca and Jansen orders

Ireland is set to stop ordering further deliveries of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and place more reliance on mRNA jabs, the head of the HSE has said.

Paul Reid said Ireland’s programme would rely mainly on Pfizer and Moderna messenger RNA vaccines, going forward.

He said Ireland had established a strong supply of mRNA jabs and noted that the recent deal with Romania would see 700,000 more mRNA vaccines arrive in the country in the next two weeks.

AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen jabs are viral vector vaccines that use a harmless virus to teach the human body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response to Covid-19.

The messenger RNA vaccines use tiny fragments of the virus’s genetic code to teach the body how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response.

Electricity blackouts

An energy engineering expert has warned that Ireland's electricity grid is facing the increased prospect of blackouts this winter as emergency plans to import power generators have stalled.

Brian Ó Gallachóir, a professor of energy engineering at University College Cork, was responding to a statement by EirGrid which said that maintaining the balance between supply and demand had become increasingly challenging due to a number of factors.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Professor Ó Gallachóir said that the prospect of blackouts would be part of the process “as our electricity system moves increasingly to a zero-carbon power system.”

Following the publication of the IPCC report last week there was now a greater impetus “to really reduce emissions across all of the sectors of the economy and transport, heating, agriculture,” said the professor, who is also the director of the MaREI Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine research and innovation.

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