Summer 2021 is back on.

Reopening is continuing at pace for June, July and August underpinned by the acceleration of the vaccination programme.

That was the message from the Taoiseach Micheál Martin as he declared "the end of this is within our grasp".

Outdoor pints are on the menu for early next month, as well as people at matches, gigs and cinemas.

And from early July, indoor dining, indoor sports and more at weddings. August brings even more freedom.

Perhaps the most eye-catching element of the big announcement is the return of international travel from 19 July after a lengthy clampdown.

Holidays to Britain, Europe and the US are possible sooner than many had hoped.

Airlines are agitating to get back to the skies and senior politicians agree that Ireland can't remain cut off forever.

However, it will not be free of restrictions and Mandatory Hotel Quarantine remains for now.


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But overall for the Government, this is a very good day. It heralds a new era beyond the pandemic thanks to what Tánaiste Leo Varadkar called the "miracle" of vaccination.

For now, Covid-19 numbers have stabilised despite the increased activity of the past two months.

Inoculation is clearly stalling the progress of the disease.

Next month, however, brings another test of whether the virus can be held back further with even more socialising and the return of indoor gatherings.

Essentially it’s a race between the vaccination of an additional 300,000 or even 400,000 people each week versus the danger of many more individuals meeting up.

But the Government believes that any future wave will be much less deadly as the vulnerable have been protected.

This has tipped the balance firmly in favour of continued reopening. Not everyone agrees on the strategy.

The Independent Scientific Advocacy Group has called the return of indoors as "insane as Christmas" and it continues to push for "Zero Covid" using drastic measures to suppress the disease.

But the Government has other considerations of business and the broader economy to consider.

Those concerns had been completely overshadowed by the death rate seen earlier this year. That caution is now being carefully pared back.

All this progress comes despite the hiccups with vaccine supply in June means the Government is unlikely to meet the target to have 82% of adults given one dose by the end of June.

Mr Varadkar suggested a new aim to have 2.5 million people or 60% of adults fully vaccinated by the end of July.

NPHET’s advice is that the current Covid-19 numbers present a "low to medium risk" and the uncertainty around June vaccine supplies is not a sufficient reason to slow down the easing of restrictions.

However, there is another political calculation that has also been made. That is the belief in the administration that most people will not feel aggrieved if the vaccination target is rolled back by a few weeks.

Ministers believe that a majority of the population will be buoyed up by getting their jabs, feeling safer and enjoying the return of relative normality.

Next month means more businesses reopening and more people getting back to work. And the welcome return of the fun stuff that gives everyone something to look forward to – sport, music and meeting friends.

Fine Gael in particular is banking on a feelgood factor in early July. It hopes this will make it the optimal time to hold the Dublin Bay South by-election and to retain the seat.

The alternative is an October contest against the backdrop of the first of several tougher Budgets as the pandemic spending is reined in and replaced by the demands in other areas such as healthcare and climate change.

And there are other economic risks, including Ireland’s exposure to changes in corporate tax and the warning from the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council about the Government’s own forecasts.

For now, the Budget is a worry for some months' time. A more pressing problem amid the current optimism, is the risk posed by the variant first discovered in India, the black cloud on the horizon, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan.

This is now the dominant strain in Britain as it spreads more quickly. Worryingly, research this week also exposed the risk for those with only one dose of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca.

Labour and the Social Democrats have highlighted this and have pushed for consideration for shortening the time for a second dose of whichever vaccine is available.

This is under review and it underlines that while huge progress has been made, things could slip again as the virus mutates.

For now, the Government will enjoy basking in the positivity of the reopening but it’s aware that the pandemic emergency is not yet over.