I thank the Deputy for the question. It is fair to say that Covid-19 has had a devastating effect and caused huge difficulty for everyone in Ireland. That is especially true for people in nursing homes and their families, who have suffered huge hardship, as well as staff. The Department of Health is exploring ways to ensure their voices are heard.
It must be recognised that the pandemic has not concluded and at this time the priority focus of the Government remains on the ongoing management of the Covid-19 response to ensure the gains we have seen are preserved and that those most vulnerable to the virus continue to be protected. NPHET and its modelling team have served us well, performing essential roles. I pay tribute to the chairs of both groups, Dr. Tony Holohan and Professor Philip Nolan, for their leadership and expertise.
Ireland's response has been robust, as is evident when one considers some of the outcomes here relative to those in many other countries.
Ireland currently has one of the lowest number of cases per capita within the EU and UK and thankfully, when this is over and if things continue as is, Ireland will have one of the lowest levels of excess mortality also.
Our vaccination programme is also performing extremely well. By the end of the week the vaccination programme is expected to have administered 5 million doses, with more than 2 million adults fully vaccinated and more than 70% of the adult population having received their first dose. I am delighted to be able to share that when one considers the target population, Ireland has either the highest or one of the highest participation rates right across the board.
The Deputy raises the very important point of antigen testing. In January I established the rapid testing group chaired by Professor Mark Ferguson. More recently I have established an expert advisory group on rapid testing, chaired by Professor Mary Horgan, to support the roll-out of rapid testing right across sectors in the country.