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HSE boss says 'we have to be honest' about what Christmas will look once Level 5 restrictions ease

Reid told Newstalk Breakfast people will still need to limit their social contacts after 1 December.

Image: Shutterstock/Ekaterina Pokrovsky

HSE CEO PAUL Reid has said health officials will have to be honest about what Christmas will look like this year once restrictions are eased, but it is still too early to tell. 

The government is facing criticism over the lack of clarity on what pandemic restrictions will apply at over the festive period, with Level 5 restrictions due to be lifted on 1 December. 

Reid told Newstalk Breakfast this morning that “the trends are good” for Ireland but people will still need to limit their social contacts in December.

“I think we have to learn from what happened earlier on in the year as the economy and society opened up in June and July. And then in August, September, October – particularly in October – we saw massive rises in the cases again,” he said.

So I think we have to learn from that period this time, in terms of how we organise our lives through December and onwards after that.

“How we continuously reduce our numbers of contacts that we have, how we protect our households, how we reduce the number of people we have in our household and the households we visit.

“Christmas is a very important time for families, it’s a very important time for Irish society, it’s hugely valued by everybody. And we do need to give people good hope and encouragement that the actions they’re taking now does merit us all having a reasonable Christmas.

“But I think we equally have to be honest with people and just say as well that if we manage to work through December and throughout Christmas by carrying on the behaviours that we’re doing at the moment, and it’s really about reducing our contacts, it’s a really big important factor that we don’t end up in the same position heading into January, February or March.”

He added that it was still too early to make predictions, “because there are another few weeks to go of the current restrictions, it’s too early to say what that will all look like”.

Professor Philip Nolan, a leading member of the public health advice team Nphet, warned yesterday that strict limits will be needed on Christmas get-togethers.

In an interview with the Sunday Business Post, Nolan warned that easing restrictions at Christmas risked a third wave of the virus in the new year. He said: “If we go back to the level of social contact we had in August and September, we are storing up difficulty for ourselves in January and February. 

Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion told RTÉ’s The Week In Politics that the government had to provide more clarity to allow people to plan for the festive season.

She said: “People were told for the last number of weeks that they had to go into Level 5 to sort of save Christmas. Now we’re seeing that it’s going to be very restricted anyway.”

When asked about the remarks yesterday, Junior Minister Robert Troy said the situation would be kept “under review”.

He said: “I can’t honestly say here today, in terms of what’s going to happen at Christmas.

“Only to say that the government with NPHET, with the public health advice, are keeping the situation under constant review to ensure that we can open up the economy as much as possible in December, and to ensure that we can have as good a Christmas as possible under the circumstances.”

He added:

Christmas will not be the same as previous Christmases, it can’t be the same as previous Christmases. This is a highly contagious disease. 

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The Department of Health last night confirmed a further 542 cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases in Ireland to 65,394.

Currently, 291 patients with Covid-19 are hospitalised, of which 40 are in ICU. 14 more people with Covid-19 have been hospitalised in the past 24 hours. 

The total number of Covid-19 deaths in Ireland now stands at 1,947.

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Adam Daly

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