The health minister said it was “too early to say” if Ireland’s re-opening plan would be delayed by the spread of Covid-19 variants.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said a decision about whether to proceed with re-opening Ireland as planned will not be made until next week.

Speaking to Newstalk, the Wicklow TD said there was “significant” concern about the spread of the Delta variant, and advice from NPHET would be considered next week by the Cabinet.

“The public health team are watching the Delta variant very, very closely – and we’ll see what the data says next week,” Donnelly said.

“Just last Thursday, I was talking to the team last week after NPHET and it was believed the Delta variant was about 5% of new cases. In fact, the data we saw from whole genome sequencing was that the number of new cases of Delta variant was actually falling week on week.

“What we need to do is what we always do – let the scientists and public health doctors do their thing, and let them pore over the analysis.

“We’re watching the UK very closely, and the exact numbers are moving around. But what we know about the Delta variant is it seems to be a lot more contagious… seems to be significantly more severe in terms of the risk of being hospitalised… and appears to be less susceptible to vaccines, certainly in terms of having just one vaccine dose.

“What the experts tell me is that variants like this – which are so much more contagious – inevitably become dominant.

“The question for us is what needs to be done to make sure as many people as possible are fully vaccinated.”

Pubs and restaurants are set to restart indoor dining from July 5th, but the latest comments from Minister Donnelly have now cast these plans into doubt.