The Taoiseach has confirmed that Ireland will join the EU's digital green certificate system, opening up the prospect of foreign travel by the end of the summer.
Speaking this afternoon in Cork, Micheál Martin said "possibilities" may open for people to travel between EU member states at that stage, once they have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 and can produce the results of a PCR test to confirm they are free of the virus.
He said there is a working timeframe of between June and the end of July or the beginning of August to have an EU digital green passport in operation between member states.
"Europe is pressing ahead with it in terms of the technology side of it," Micheál Martin said.
"There will be more work to be done in terms of the application of these passports, but we want a European-wide, interoperable portal where people can register the fact that they have been vaccinated, that they had a negative PCR test or they have recovered from Covid. So, I think, that is the next stage."
Mr Martin confirmed that Ireland will participate in the EU digital green passport system.
"That is something Ireland is going to participate in - we are going to participate in that European-wide framework. We will work through this," he said.
"Certainly, by the latter part of the summer, possibilities may open up, but we have got to track the virus, keep on top of it and keep the pressure on it.
"This has been a balancing act so far. Let's not forget we are still at 400+ cases a day and that is something we will always keep an eye on."
He said falling levels of severe illness, hospitalisation and ICU admissions were giving the Government confidence to move forward.
Mr Martin said he expected vaccination to move ahead quickly this month and next month.
He said he expected between 220,000 and 240,000 people to be vaccinated this week, with another quarter of a million to 270,000 doses of vaccine to be administered next week.
Micheál Martin was speaking after he received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at City Hall in Cork this lunchtime.
Mr Martin, who has just returned from an EU summit in Portugal, arrived at the HSE vaccination centre as scheduled at noon and queued to register before the vaccine was administered to him by nurse Brenda Dillon.
Delighted to get my #CovidVaccine today from the fantastic @HSELive staff and volunteers at Cork City Hall— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) May 9, 2021
The vaccines are making a major difference, as we protect the most vulnerable and open up society! pic.twitter.com/30EccijGY4
Speaking outside the vaccination centre, the Taoiseach said: "My message is to keep with it."
"I think we're making great progress as a country. I think the people have done extremely well in responding to the various guidelines over the last number of months, and the results are we're emerging from this pandemic."
"We're set to have a good summer if we can keep this progress going and the vaccination is certainly helping in bringing down severe illness and bringing down deaths and hospitalisations."
Speaking afterwards on RTÉ's Brendan O'Connor programme, Mr Martin said there will be a "significant psychological uplift" for people in the coming week as the phased reopening of society begins.
"The vaccinations are working, its having a very good impact... we are on the right track, we have to be vigilant at all times, but I do look forward to the opening up, and I think the timing is right given the length of time people have adhered to the regulations.
"It is important people avail of the opportunities that arise," he added.
Asked about the potential use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for younger age groups, Mr Martin said the Government "want every vaccine used", adding that the CMO is engaging with NIAC on the issue, and NIAC will reflect on it.
"I think it would ensure the maximum utilisation of all vaccines that we have, that none would go to waste and also that we would protect people faster and get as many people protected as possible, so I hope it works out and it is something I would support".
"I certainly think it is one that we would love to see full utilisation of," he added.
Asked if the country was still on track for vaccine targets through the summer, Mr Martin said the country is "broadly on target", despite setbacks with the likes of AstraZeneca.
He said he was "a bit relieved and quietly pleased" that he received his first dose, adding that all the people present at the centre in Cork this morning were delighted to have got their jab.
He said the level of vaccine take-up in Ireland has been strong, and said he hoped the country could maintain that level going forward.