Wednesday, 10 November 2021
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I thank the Senator for raising this matter, which is important. He has set out the position clearly. On 19 October, the Government approved the reopening of the remaining aspects of the hospitality, entertainment and night-time economy. The hospitality sector has been permitted to reopen only with a full range of protective measures in place and the wide and robust implementation of the EU digital Covid certificate. Thinking back to the debate on the digital Covid certificate in the Dáil - I read the transcript a couple of weeks ago - I recall it being very emotive. Only the Government parties and one Independent supported it at the time. The digital Covid certificate being implemented to allow hospitality to fully reopen was likened to a pig in a poke and an Irish solution to Irish problem. It was labelled discriminatory. I can now see how all parties have engaged with the digital Covid certificate as a solution.
I was in a premises on Sunday morning when I did a bit of shopping. I do not mind mentioning I was in a Starbucks and I was so impressed when I entered the premises. A person is first asked for a digital Covid certificate when sitting down and identification to complement it. After sitting, a person can scan a code at the table to indicate the time and date when he or she is there. Some places are implementing the process well. Unfortunately, as we have heard, 37% of establishments are not up to speed and it is important that they participate fully in the process.
More than 7.6 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have now been administered since the programme began last December. This figure encompasses both primary vaccination and the administration of booster doses. Vaccination of those not yet inoculated remains an immediate focus of the programme. In recognition of this priority, the HSE has established an uptake improvement group, which has deployed initiatives that include pop-up clinics and targeted media campaigns.
In addition to the full reopening of the hospitality sector on 19 October, the Minister for Health announced an update to Ireland's Covid-19 vaccination programme in extending the booster vaccination to those aged between 60 and 79. The change was made on foot of a recommendation from the national immunisation advisory committee that a booster dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine should be offered to all those aged 60 to 79 who have completed their primary vaccination course. The recommendation has subsequently been updated to include provision of a half dose of Moderna's Spikevax vaccine to be offered to those aged 60 to 79. Persons aged over 60 will be offered an mRNA vaccine regardless of the type of vaccine used for their primary vaccination course. The booster dose should be given after an interval of six months, or at least five months, following the previous dose of any authorised Covid-19 vaccine.
I am pleased to report to the House that significant progress has been made in the weeks since the announcement. An estimated 336,000 persons aged over 70 are in scope for booster vaccination and nearly 33,000 doses have been administered to date. GPs are responsible for the administration of booster doses to this cohort and I express my sincere thanks for their ongoing contribution to the success of the vaccination programme.
The HSE anticipates that the booster vaccination of those aged over 70 and residing in the community will be completed by the end of November. Those aged 60 to 69 are being vaccinated through community vaccination centres and 13,000 doses have been administered to date. It is expected that the roll-out of booster doses for those aged between 60 and 69 will be substantially completed by the end of December. The roll-out of booster doses to those aged 60 to 79 is occurring in parallel with the vaccination of those aged 80 and living in the community and to healthcare workers, with the process for those in long-term care facilities having been substantially completed.