Goodbody Stockbrokers has today warned that Ireland risks being an outlier in its reopening if a combination of slow vaccine rollout and a very cautious end to Level 5 restrictions comes to pass.
This comes after the Irish Independent stated yesterday that the extension may last until after Easter, while the Irish Times this morning reports that some in Government want to see very low cases sustained for a period of up to four weeks, which could potentially push back reopening until late April or early May.
Ireland had one of the most stringent lockdowns in Europe through 2020 and such a decision would make Ireland an outlier once again. As of last week, Denmark and Ireland had the most stringent regimes in the EU according to the Oxford Stringency Index.
The Irish Times article notes that the earliest relaxation of restrictions (outside schools and construction) would be April 12th, but this would be contingent on cases falling to 100 by March 15th. Goodbody say achieving that target is possible but would necessitate the R-rate remaining close to 0.5.
Goodbody say a combination of the spike in cases over Christmas and the resulting pressure on the hospital system, the virulence of the new COVID strains and the risk of further strains is clearly having an impact on the heightened sense of caution among Irish government officials.
The other reason is the rather slow progress on vaccine rollout, where targets appear to be slipping in recent days. While Ireland appears to be doing quite well in an EU comparison, the EU remains a significant laggard in this process globally.
Furthermore, Goodbody say this is already having real economic impacts, as evidenced by the reduction of economic forecasts for the bloc by the European Commission yesterday. Rather than speeding up, the daily rate of vaccinations appears to be slowing down in Ireland. The target for vaccinating all the over 70s has now slipped to mid-May.
According to Goodbody Stockbrokers, "Given this reality, a revised plan for “Living with COVID” is being finalised and will be published in two weeks’ time. As we noted earlier in the week, that plan should be accompanied by data and targets on cases, transmissibility by activity, hospital capacity, vaccine roll-out plans and economic and social cost. For the moment, it seems that a hammer is the only tool available."