ALL COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted by Christmas, Ireland's Health Minister has predicted.
Minister Stephen Donnelly spoke to journalists outside Croke Park's Covid-19 testing centre yesterday where he said that despite Ireland's current high rate of cases, the ongoing roll-out of the vaccine and high take-up among all age groups means all remaining restrictions should be lifted before Christmas.
While he would "like" to see "the lifting of all restrictions as soon as possible", it is likely that the Government will be advised to keep "some restrictions for some time", including the wearing of masks and regular hand washing.
He acknowledged that the past year and a half has been "brutal" for everyone, and said he wanted to "provide real certainty" for the sectors-- such as the live music and entertainment-- which are still under harsh restrictions.
"We are aware there are some who aren't [open] and have suffered hugely and we want to open them as quickly as possible and when they do open, stay open and give them clarity as to when that can happen," Minister Donnelly said, The Irish Examiner reports.
Ireland's live music and entertainment industry have been vocally frustrated and angry with the continued closure of their sector, particularly since the All-Ireland Hurling final in Croke Park over the weekend which 40,000 spectators were allowed to attend, and Minister Donnelly said he can understand the frustration.
"They're looking at Croke Park and saying 'surely there is room for live events', and we need to do everything we can to make that happen," he said.
"Their ask is very reasonable, and is there room now to increase outdoor music events."
Minister Donnelly confirmed that the National Public Health Emergency team (NPHET) would be speaking to Government officials today to advise on the further reopening of society.
"The end [of restrictions] very much needs to be in sight" at this point, he added.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday after Minister Donnelly made the prediction, Ireland's Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said he is "hopeful" all restrictions would be gone by Christmas, and even said he hopes it will be "sooner than that".