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'Don't meet up': Holohan urges people to cut down contacts and avoid crowds

The Chief Medical Officer urged people to stay at home, not to meet up and to stay away from pubs and restaurants and to avoid crowds.

Updated Dec 20th 2020, 1:34 PM

CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER Dr Tony Holohan has asked people to cut down their contacts and to avoid crowds, pubs and restaurants heading into Christmas week. 

The CMO said on Twitter that Ireland has low Covid-19 cases and deaths compared to other European countries, the UK and the United States but warned “this is at risk now, just as vaccines arrive”. 

He urged people to stay at home, not to meet up and to stay away from pubs and restaurants and to avoid crowds. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly confirmed this afternoon that government is considering travel restrictions on movement from the United Kingdom after the UK detected a coronavirus variant suspected to be more infectious.

It comes after a number of European countries imposed bans on flights arriving from the UK. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s This Week Programme, Donnelly said there will be an announcement later today regarding potential travel restrictions from the UK.

He said the government was looking at flights and ferries coming from Britain into Ireland and that the government was giving the matter serious consideration. 

The Government is also set to meet on Tuesday morning to decide on the latest advice from NPHET which has recommended new restrictions from 28 December. 

NPHET has called for the re-imposition of inter-county travel restrictions before the New Year, but it is understood that government is minded to keep to the original plan, allowing travel between counties until and including 6 January.

It is expected, however, that restaurants and gastro pubs will close their doors on 30 December, seven days earlier than originally planned. 

Donnelly said today that cases are rising rapidly and that public health officials expect this to continue.  

Donnelly could not give specific reassurances to hospitality businesses around what January will look like but said it “is one of many things we are thinking through.”

“I understand businesses want clarity…but there’a an awful lot of unknowns about this virus, we’ll monitor it closely and we’ll have a decision on Tuesday.”

Health officials last night confirmed a further 527 cases of Covid-19 in Ireland and five more deaths. 

Dr Holohan said last night that the “figures we are seeing across all key indicators of disease severity continue to give us strong reason for persistent, ongoing concern”.

“As we head into a week with uniquely risky inter-household and inter-generational mixing, please remember to act responsibly. Start this weekend. It is never too late to cut down your contacts, cancel plans, or avoid a crowd,” Dr Holohan said.

“Bear in mind that you may well be the link in a chain of transmission that ends with a vulnerable loved one catching this dangerous disease. Stop that chain of transmission now – limit your movements today,” he said. 

The national 14-day incidence rate currently stands at 102.4 cases per 100,000 people.

The incidence rate is at its worst in Donegal, where there are 250 cases per 100,000, and is least severe in Leitrim at 25 per 100,000.

The 14-day incidence rate in Dublin in 112.6 per 100,000.

As many European countries implement tighter restrictions in the lead-up to Christmas, the UK has announced fresh restrictions to curb the spread of a new mutant strain of coronavirus.

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In England, Boris Johnson effectively cancelled Christmas for almost 18 million people in London, south-eastern and eastern England as the region was put into a new two-week lockdown from Sunday.

The Prime Minister said people should “lift a glass to those who aren’t there”, knowing that celebrating Christmas apart this year meant there would be “a better chance that they’ll be there next year”.

Under the new Tier 4 rules non-essential shops – as well as gyms, cinemas, casinos and hairdressers – have to stay shut and people are limited to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.

Those in Tier 4 were told they should not travel out of the region, while those outside were advised against visiting.

In the rest of England, Christmas easing has been severely curtailed, with households allowed to gather for just one day – Christmas Day itself – rather than the five days previously planned.

Scotland and Wales are also restricting Christmas “bubbles” to a single day, while people in Northern Ireland have been asked to consider forming a bubble for Christmas Day only.

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