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Return of colleges and international travel on track despite Delta threat

The Taoiseach said there are concerns about an increase in the number of people being tested, but wider plans to lift restrictions will proceed.

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An information poster on Covid-19 in the reception area of Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

An information poster on Covid-19 in the reception area of Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

An information poster on Covid-19 in the reception area of Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Plans to welcome students back to college campuses and the return of international travel remain on track, despite the threat of the Delta variant.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said plans to implement the EU’s Digital Covid passport on July 19 are “on track”, despite reports ministers privately fear there will be delays.

Further Education Minister Simon Harris has said he does not anticipate any delays to the planned return of colleges in September.

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Plans to resume international travel on July 19 via the EU’s digital Covid passport remain on track, the Taoiseach said (Brian Lawless/PA)

Plans to resume international travel on July 19 via the EU’s digital Covid passport remain on track, the Taoiseach said (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Plans to resume international travel on July 19 via the EU’s digital Covid passport remain on track, the Taoiseach said (Brian Lawless/PA)

The more transmissible Delta variant, first identified in India, is expected to become the dominant strain in Europe by August, and has caused havoc for plans to reopen indoor hospitality.

The Taoiseach said there are concerns about an increase in the number of people being tested, but wider plans to lift restrictions will proceed.

He told reporters on Monday: “The Government is committed to entering into the Covid digital certificate framework by the 19th and we’re going to do that.

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“That was a conscious Government decision some time ago, that we commence with this on July 19.

“Significant progress has been made in that regard. It’s clear there are challenges, but progress has been made.”

Our plans very remain on track, and will be back to Cabinet on the 19th of JulyFurther Education Minister Simon Harris

Asked if the Delta variant could affect plans for colleges to return, Mr Harris said: “No I don’t is the short answer,  for a couple of reasons.

“One, the Government has already published our framework for getting people back to college in a safe way and we have outlined the minimum expectation and the maximum expectation from that.

“And the second point was, we actually had really good news for college students with the changes to the Niac (National Immunisation Advisory Committee) advice in relation to vaccines.

“We’re already seeing, as of today, people who are college-aged able to start to register for vaccines in a way that perhaps they weren’t expecting to be able to do for quite a number of weeks.

“So our plans very much remain on track, and will be back to Cabinet on the 19th of July.”

In response to the Delta threat, the vaccine rollout has been significantly ramped up, with a deal to receive one million unwanted jabs from Romania agreed last week, and people aged 18 to 34 now able to receive the one-shot Janssen vaccine, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson.

Other EU member states have also been contacted in a bid to secure more doses, while HSE boss Paul Reid has indicated every adult could be fully vaccinated by the end of August or early September.

Health experts are working on an updated timeline for the rollout, but the Taoiseach could not say when it would be ready.

He said: “The vaccination problem is picking up. I think it’s difficult to model until you’re actually in possession of the vaccines so to speak.

“We are accelerating quickly with the Niac advice now, in terms of Janssen and AstraZeneca, and there’s been a very good indication of demand for that.

“So that is very positive. There were 43,000 vaccines administered last week, we’re looking at a similar amount of vaccines next week.

“So it really is picking up pace. I think we’ll be close to 50% fully vaccinated by tomorrow. So we are making a lot of progress.

“That said, we are very worried about Delta. The numbers are increasing and the numbers who are reporting for testing is significantly up on this time last week.”


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