We are likely to see the Government's new slogan "Think safe, think outdoors" plastered on billboards and newspaper ads and repeated mantra-like by politicians and policy makers over the coming weeks and months.

It's a good slogan for the stage of recovery we are now entering given the risks that greater levels of economic and social engagement entail for increased transmissibility of Covid-19.

Practically all cases of Covid-19 in Ireland now are the B117 variant of the virus first identified in the UK.

We knew nothing about B117 in late November which was the last time Covid restrictions were eased.

We know a lot more now. It is 70% more transmissible than the original strain of the virus. It makes people more sick. A person is 1.7 times more likely to end up in hospital and 2.3 times more likely to end up in intensive care if they become infected with Covid-19 in Ireland now compared with last November.

Who can forget the infection rates and extreme stress in our hospitals and Intensive Care Units just weeks after that last easing?

Remember the peak - over 6,500 cases per day, 2,020 people in hospital, 220 in ICU, hundreds in high dependency units receiving advanced respiratory care, nurses and medics dragged from general wards to cover for and assist ICU specialists. No, nobody is going to forget all of that anytime soon.

That rotten experience, the fear and worry, that is why the Irish have been among the world's best supporters of public health messaging and social restrictions.

We have had Level 5 restrictions since Christmas Eve. Who else in Europe had to suffer that?

Fear and worry have been replaced by hope and optimism now that the Government has outlined the path ahead. The support, determination, and sacrifice of the general public has been key. So too has the steady progress of the national vaccination program.

It is a slow and steady pace of opening-up.

It is going to be another five and a half weeks before more than six people can gather for an indoor wedding reception.

It will be another nine weeks before the Government will even start to consider indoor hospitality in restaurants and bars.

As for opening-up international travel, well "Waiting for Godot" springs to mind when one thinks about that. People are still being asked to work from home wherever possible for the foreseeable future.

The act of lifting restrictions does, after all, involve taking a risk, and a big enough risk at that. During the week before Level 5 restrictions were previously lifted last November, Covid-19 case numbers were running at about 375 per day.

This week they are averaging over 430 per day - significantly higher. On top of that the disease is more severe and more easily spread now than then.

The rollout of the vaccination program changes everything, however. It more than compensates for the risks associated with a higher disease burden, greater transmissibility, and severity, and the higher chances of being hospitalised now compared with last November.

The momentum of the vaccine rollout is increasing steadily. Taoiseach Micheál Martin said almost 30% of all people over the age of 16 have received at least one dose of vaccine.

International studies suggest that should provide that 30% of the population with up to 80% protection from infection and 100% protection from severe disease.

In all, more than one and a half million vaccine doses have been administered.

This week alone, the country will receive more than 355,000 doses of various vaccines. Included in that are 190,000 doses of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine received on Tuesday and 165,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday.

The HSE is getting those vaccines into people's arms at a very fast pace. Once they are received, 95% of available vaccines are distributed within seven days.

Every time a vaccine dose is administered the risks involved in reopening society and the economy go down.

The fact that the vaccine rollout has so far concentrated on those in the highest age groups, health care workers and medically vulnerable people has changed the risk equation completely.

HSE figures show that by Tuesday 27 April more than 97% of the over-85s had received a first dose of vaccine while 89% had received a second dose.

On top of that 100% of 75-to-84-year-olds had received a first dose while 71% had received their second dose.

First doses had also been given to 68% of 65-to-74-year-olds, 20% of 55-to-64-year-olds, 16% of 45-to-50-year-olds, and 12% of 20-to-44-year-olds.

The protection from all those vaccinations has been phenomenal.

We know for instance that 55% of all people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 since the pandemic began have been over the age of 65. Now they are protected.

We know too that half of all those who died from Covid-19 were over the age of 88 and that 92% of all those who died were over the age of 65. Now they too are protected.

Then there is the fact that 28,400 health care workers have been infected with the virus since the pandemic began. That is about 12% of all cases. Now they are also protected.

Sometime next week people aged in their 50s are going to be invited to begin registering for vaccination appointments when the HSE vaccine booking portal is made available to this age group. It will take some weeks before they receive a first dose. But there is little doubt that it’s a case of "full steam ahead".

There is plenty of reason for hope as all of this plays out.

This summer is going to a brighter affair than last summer. We may well see significantly higher daily case numbers than last year. But we can be more confident about where we are heading and more certain that strong protections are in place.