Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has hailed the UK vaccination programme as “a stunning success” and said the EU “need to get their finger out”.

Speaking on Monday as Ryanair reported a €306 million loss for the three months to December, O’Leary said: “Vaccination of high-risk groups is the way out of Covid-19, not lockdowns.”

He insisted: “We take great comfort from the stunning success of the UK vaccination programme.

“All high-risk categories are on track to be vaccinated by February, and half the population will be vaccinated by the end of March.”

O’Leary said: “Europe and Ireland have fallen behind the UK and they need to get their finger out.

“The UK is leading the world in the vaccine roll-out. The government deserves credit for the success.”

He argued: “It will be very difficult politically for the UK to lock down the population from the end of March if they have vaccinated half the population.

“You may still have Covid in the community, but there will be huge political pressure to open up as we move into the summer.

“The success of the UK vaccination programme has put enormous pressure on the EU. I’m confident the success of the UK programme will have to be replicated across Europe.”

However, O’Leary added: “We expect Europe to catch up and vaccinate half the population by the end of June. Then there will be a repeal of travel restrictions and a strong snap-back of travel, particularly for holidays.”

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