Ireland has now administered half a million coronavirus jabs.

The taoiseach, Micheál Martin, hailed Irish progress in the pandemic, tweeting on Saturday afternoon that he had been informed by the Health Service Executive that the country had passed the half-million mark.

Speaking earlier in a video posted on Twitter, Martin said he had been inspired by recent visits to vaccination centres where thousands of frontline healthcare workers were receiving the inoculation.

He said the government and the HSE were doing everything they could to secure supplies and to give vaccines to people as quickly as possible.

The first coronavirus vaccine in Ireland was given to a Dublin woman, Annie Lynch, on 29 December.

“Next week we will begin to vaccinate those with underlying health conditions as well as continuing to vaccinate the over-70s and healthcare workers,” Martin said.

The taoiseach said the vaccines are reducing the impact of the virus, adding: “This can be seen in the reduced levels of infection in our nursing homes and among our frontline healthcare workers.

“This brings hope, along with the continued fall in Covid numbers, thanks to the sacrifices you have been making.

“The 14-day incidence level [of confirmed cases per 100,000 population] fell below 200 this week for the first time since Christmas. While our health services are still under pressure, the number of patients in our hospitals and ICUs is reducing significantly.”

However, he added a note of caution, warning that variants of the virus mean people should not relax in observing restrictions.

On Saturday, the number of patients in intensive care in Ireland with Covid-19 dropped to 101, with the number of cases in hospital at 414.

Paul Reid, the chief executive of the HSE, described it as a “great sign”.

On Friday, nine further deaths with the virus and 522 new cases were registered in Ireland.

Graph of Covid cases in Ireland

On Saturday, a peaceful demonstration against lockdown restrictions took place in Cork.

A similar event in Dublin last week ended in violent scenes, with 23 people arrested and three gardaí injured.

There was a heavy police presence in Cork and some shops boarded up their windows as an estimated crowd of several hundred gathered on St Patrick’s Street.

There had been pleas to call off the event, including by the city’s lord mayor, Joe Kavanagh, and government minister Simon Coveney.

The demonstration’s organisers, the People’s Convention, said it would be a “peaceful assembly”.

This content first appear on the guardian

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