Simon Harris gives three urgent options for easing restrictions next week
"We have to move away from thinking that there's a binary choice when it comes to Covid and reopening."
Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has outlined three options for the Government to consider ahead of a crunch National Public Health and Emergency Team meeting next week.
NPHET is set to review the spike in Covid-19 cases throughout the country, with next Friday's scheduled lifting of all remaining restrictions now in considerable doubt.
A subsequent decision will be announced on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar stated that if everybody in Ireland was fully vaccinated, there would be "no question" about the lifting of restrictions.
Earlier on the same day, Professor Philip Nolan compared leaving home with Covid symptoms to drunk-driving.
On Thursday evening, Dr Ronan Glynn noted that there is now an average of 50 people being admitted to hospital per day in relation to the virus – up from 35 per day at the end of September.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland on Friday, Simon Harris discussed three specific approaches that concern the public going forward.
"I think we have to move away from thinking that there's a binary choice when it comes to Covid and reopening," Harris began. "Is it a yes and a no, is it a proceed, is it not? I think there is now a third way.
"I think the three choices facing government – and we'll have to consult public health experts, NPHET will meet on Monday, the decision will be Tuesday – but I think there are three genuine options to consider and scrutinise:
"Proceed, pause, or proceed while retaining some safeguards."
Harris posited a scenario in which the restrictions do lift but elements remain, such as the use of vaccine passports and face masks. He noted that he has been looking "with great interest" to Israel and how that country has been handling its own outbreak.
On the subject of expanding the booster programme beyond the current age categories, Harris said:
"I'm very conscious of this – I'm a politician and not a doctor. What I'm in favour of is seeking urgent advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee on this.
"I think there is growing evidence that a more widespread booster programme may have benefits to your population but it is appropriate that the advice is given by doctors and not politicians.
"But it would be useful to get that advice and I expect government will get advice on booster programmes next week from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee."