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Tanaiste optimistic country can have a good summer thanks to vaccine

Leo Varadkar said many of the 400,000 who lost their jobs due to lockdown will be able to return between Easter and summer.

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

The Tanaiste has said he is optimistic that the country can have a good summer thanks to the arrival of the coronavirus vaccine.

Leo Varadkar said he is hopeful that all residents and staff will be fully vaccinated by mid-February, a move which could potentially cut the number of deaths linked to Covid-19 by half.

It will be after Easter before the vaccine is rolled out to the general population, but Mr Varadkar said many of the 400,000 who have lost their jobs because of lockdown will be able to return to work at that point.

He told Dermot And Dave on Today FM: “I think the summer is going to be a good summer. I’m not going to say it’s a normal summer.

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Declan Brazil receives his vaccine from public health nurse Siobhan Ryan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Declan Brazil receives his vaccine from public health nurse Siobhan Ryan (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Declan Brazil receives his vaccine from public health nurse Siobhan Ryan (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I think it is going to be a good one, because we’ll really see the effect of the vaccine in the second quarter of this year.

“Also, we get into the better weather, so you know I think we can look forward to a decent summer, and I think we can look forward to an economy really rebounding.

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“I’m very conscious of the fact that there are 400,000 people, many of them listening to this programme now, who are out of work and on the pandemic unemployment payments.

“I would say the vast majority of them will be back to work at some point between Easter and summer.”

Mr Varadkar said it will be after Easter before the general public – people who are under 65 and healthy – start receiving the vaccine.

He said: “It’ll be after Easter, realistically. We’re going to have about 16 mass vaccination centres around the country.

“We have 10 million doses ordered, they just haven’t arrived yet, so we’ll have enough for everyone. It will be free. It will not be compulsory.

“There’s a reason why this is being done in a priority order. If you look at people who have died of Covid, over 90% are people who are over 70 with a chronic illness.

“So, we vaccinate all of those people first. We can reduce the death rate by 90%, we can reduce the number of people being hospitalised by a very big figure too.

“That’s the kind of game-changer, you know. So, in the same way that we don’t vaccinate absolutely everyone against the flu every year, we prioritise those most at risk and that benefits everyone.”

All residents of nursing homes will have their first dose of the vaccine by the end of January, the Tanaiste said.

The Government anticipates they will be fully vaccinated by mid-February, which could cut the death rate in half, Mr Varadkar said.

He told Today FM: “The reason why we’re doing nursing home staff and residents first is over half the deaths in the first wave were people in nursing homes.

“So even though it’s only a small percentage of the population, it could actually reduce the death rate in half.

The best thing we can do to help is to stay at home, if at all possible, to buy us some time so that we can get the vaccine to those who need it the mostTanaiste Leo Varadkar

“By the end of January, we anticipate having all the nursing home residents and staff vaccinated, and by mid-February they’d have their second dose.”

Mr Varadkar warned that the third wave will be worse than the first, and said the first two months of the year will be a “very, very rocky period” for the health service.

It comes as patients were forced to wait in ambulances at Letterkenny University Hospital before being admitted because of the high level of Covid-19 patients at the hospital.

Mr Varadkar told Dermot And Dave on Today FM: “The first two months of the year are going to be a very, very rocky period.

“The best thing we can do to help is to stay at home, if at all possible, to buy us some time so that we can get the vaccine to those who need it the most.”

He added: “The situation is very serious, with nearly 1,600 patients in hospital at the moment, who have Covid.

The worry that we have is the situation is still deterioratingLeo Varadkar

“We still have over 500 beds available across the system. 127 in ICU with 38 available. So we’re very much under pressure, but we are coping.

“The worry that we have is the situation is still deteriorating.”

Mr Varadkar said the lag between cases reported and admissions to hospital means the health service will come under continued stress in the coming weeks.

However, he urged people who need medical help to continue to visit hospitals.

He said: “People who are, you know, suffering from an emergency, who may be experiencing, say, a stroke or heart attack, don’t be afraid to go to hospitals, don’t be afraid to use the emergency service.”

Sunday saw eight further deaths and an additional 6,888 new cases of the virus reported by the Department of Health.


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