Tanaiste Leo Varadkar makes Covid restrictions promise as Ireland hopes for 'normal' 2022
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar says he will push for a more "ambitious" reopening of the country this summer.
Ireland has seen two years of the strictest restrictions in Europe and the Fine Gael leader said he is determined that 2022 will be different.
Mr Varadkar said: "For the last two summers, Ireland had among the toughest restrictions in Europe. I supported those restrictions as did Fine Gael. In the summer of 2020, we had no vaccines. In the summer of 2021, most of us were not fully vaccinated.
"But that’s not the case anymore and that’s why summer 2022 should be different. We in Fine Gael will be arguing for a more ambitious re-opening, not reckless or risky but rather one that is in line with our European peers.
"Ireland is the only country, that I am aware of, where it hasn’t been possible to stand in a pub or go to your workplace if you wanted to for almost two years. We have had the among the toughest and longest restrictions on the arts, sport, music and nightlife.
"It’s been really hard of those who work in those sectors and for those for whom culture or sport is a passion. We need to restore these personal freedoms as soon as it is safe to do so, and no later. It is right to be cautious but an abundance of caution should not be an excess of it."
The Tanaiste acknowledged we are currently going through a fifth wave but there are reasons for "hope" already.
Mr Varadkar added: "We are currently experiencing the fifth wave of the pandemic, caused by the Omicron variant. But today, there are reasons for hope. The very high case numbers are not translating into severe illness, hospitalisations, ICU admission or deaths to the extent of previous waves.
"This is due to the fact that the Omicron variant is inherently less severe, but also the immunity that has built up mainly due to vaccination. We cannot be complacent. Immunity will wane. New variants will evolve. Winter will pass and come around again.
"We need to keep in place the tools required to respond quickly to any future wave. However, we also need to ensure that we do not miss the opportunity to re-open our society and economy when we can. The restrictions have been very tough on people. Young adults in particular have lost two years of their youth. So many people have yet to meet the people they now work with. Others have barely seen each other in two years. "