The Taoiseach has said the Government may signal at the end of this month that some workers can return to their offices by the end of August.

Micheál Martin said many more people will be vaccinated by August and this will allow for a vaccine dividend.

Speaking in Cork, the Taoiseach said many young people recruited last year still had not been able to work from their company offices.

He said there was an understanding in Government that these employees would like a blended experience of working some days in the office.

Mr Martin said the Government would listen to public health advice and proceed step by step.

"As you have seen all along the way we were able to do things in June that we didn't signal we would do a month earlier.

"We were able to do more than we signalled and likewise, I think by the end of this month we might be able to do more than we signalled for August and that could mean the return of some workers to the offices by the end of August."

Asked how this would affect social distancing guidelines in offices, Mr Martin said all sectors have protocols for working both indoors and outdoors.

Further decisions on easing restrictions in July and August will be taken by the Government at the end of the month.

Separately, the return of Dáil sittings at Leinster House on Tuesdays and Thursdays is being proposed by the Deputy Government Chief Whip.

Fine Gael's Brendan Griffin has asked the Ceann Comhairle to consider his proposal to have the majority of Dáil sittings taking place in Leinster House again.

The Dáil has met in the Convention Centre Dublin since the middle of last year.

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Ventilation a key requirement for a return to 'high risk' buildings

Assistant Professor of the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy UCD, Orla Hegarty has said that before people return to work, buildings need to be examined.

Ms Hegarty, who is also a member of the Expert Group on the Role of Ventilation in Reducing Transmission of Covid-19, said that high risk places that are unsafe need to be addressed.

She said the issue of ventilation should be the main focus, particularly in buildings that are more densely occupied or that are higher risk.

Asked if August would be a good time to bring workers back, she said that if the intention is to have more people back in their workplaces in August, the risks must be mitigated in more high risk settings like hospitality and gyms.

She said it is important that people do not become complacent as potential issues around variants and the vaccination programme are unknown as of now.

Ms Hegarty said the particular settings people need to be concerned about are where people are not wearing masks, where they spend a long time and where there are particular activities, such as talking loudly, singing exercising indoors.

She said the disease spreads explosively in certain buildings and the way to contain it and reopen safely is to target those high risk areas.

She said that while 55% of the adult population has now received a first dose, vaccines alone are not going to resolve the situation.

Ms Hegarty said that children will not be vaccinated until at least later in the year.

She said in parallel with the vaccination in programme there needs to be management of any potential transmission in buildings.

Additional reporting Helen Donohue