A RECORD-BREAKING number of coronavirus jabs were administered in Ireland on Friday as the country's vaccination programme continues to pick up speed.
According to HSE figures, 52,000 doses of the vaccine were administered in just 24 hours on Friday, leading Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to declare that it was a time "for hope".
On Monday, Ireland lifted a number of major public health restrictions as the country's longest lockdown begins to come to an end.
People are free to travel wherever they like on the island of Ireland now, and are free to meet family and friends in outdoor settings for the first time in over a year.
"What's happening is that as we're opening up, as people are travelling around more, people are still sticking with the basic measures, they are staying outdoors, they're wearing masks where they need to and they're keeping their distance from people," Minister Donnelly told RTÉ Radio.
"They're doing the basics and it's having a big effect. And, on top of that. obviously we're vaccinating now several hundred thousand people a week, which helps. So, I am helpful. I am an optimist.
"If we continue doing what clearly we have been doing over the last few months, I think we're looking at a really, really positive summer - the kind of summer the county needs."
On Monday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that today was "a day of freedom" for Ireland, following the most significant easing of lockdown restrictions in 2021.
"This has been the longest lockdown since the pandemic began. I am determined to do all we can to ensure that it is the last," he said.