The Tánaiste has laid out a potential timeline for the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying life could begin to return to normal by the second quarter of next year.
Leo Varadkar said 2021 will see the end of the pandemic due to the roll-out of vaccines and mass testing.
He expects Covid-19 restrictions will move to Level 1 or 2 by Easter, before life begins to return to normal with the potential for large gatherings in the summer.
“If things work out with the summer, [there’s] the possibility of returning to things like football matches, and maybe even concerts and festivals and gatherings too,” he said.
“Far from guaranteed, but I think that’s the kind of timeline we’re looking at.
“The first quarter of the year still difficult, that’s when the vaccination is being deployed, [it’s] still winter.
“The second quarter of the year, life starting to look a little bit more normal again.”
However, an infectious disease expert has cautioned it may be the end of 2021 before Ireland is back to life that looks like its “old normal”.
Professor Gerry Killeen of UCC said recent positive news regarding Covid-19 vaccines will not “change the game overnight”.
“This won’t change the rules of the game entirely overnight and we’re going to have to be smart and just remember that we’ve gained an awful lot,” he said.
“If we can hang onto it, we could still be in the region of 200, 300 cases a day after the Christmas period. Then that leaves us with options in the new year.”
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His comments come as 215 new cases of Covid-19 and one further death were confirmed in the Republic yesterday evening.
Prof Killeen urged the Irish population to avoid a return to “rolling lockdowns”.
“It’s very important that we hold on to these gains, and that maybe we think about consolidating them in the new year because otherwise we’re going to be in rolling lockdowns for months and months,” he said.
“Exactly how long, none of us really know… it could easily be a year before we can all go back to old normal.”