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Tony Holohan: 'Re-examine your plans and limit your social contacts as much as possible before Christmas'

The CMO has written to the government recommending new restrictions after Christmas.

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THE CHIEF MEDICAL Officer has warned that Ireland must take immediate action to stop the spread of Covid-19 over the Christmas period.

Dr Tony Holohan urged members of the public to reconsider their plans and limit their social contacts in the next week to protect vulnerable members of society.

An easing of restrictions, allowing inter-county travel and up to three households to meet indoors, begins today and is currently set to last until 7 January.

However, the CMO sendt a letter to the Government last night recommending another set of new restrictions from Monday 28 December instead.

Holohan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that if the spread of Covid-19 did not reduce soon, Ireland would experience a surge in new cases in the coming weeks.

“We could find ourselves in early January experiencing levels of infection that begin to place public health at risk to the extent that it begins to impact on our ability to maintain the provision of really essential public services,” he said.

In its letter last night, NPHET reportedly recommended a reintroduction of restrictions on bars and restaurants and a limiting of household visits to just one other household from Monday week.

It is also believed that non-essential retail, gyms and personal services could stay open under the proposals.

Asked about remarks by the president of the Restaurants Association of Ireland Mark McGowan that the new proposals would severely impact the hospitality industry, Holohan said nobody was “being picked on”.

He explained that NPHET’s recommendations had been made based on the Living with Covid plan, and that it was up to the government to decide on whether to implement them.

“The reality is that the kinds of environments in which this virus spreads are those in which people come together and come together socially, come together indoors, and… with the use of alcohol,” he said.

The CMO also called on the public to reduce their contacts in the week ahead, saying Ireland needed to reduce opportunities for the virus to spread in social settings.

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“It’s really important that everybody re-examines their plans and limits their social contacts as much as possible in the run into Christmas and minimises the extent to which they’re going to have contact with other people,” Holohan said.

Speaking last night, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the government would give businesses seven to ten days’ notice, even if a decision on the restrictions is not taken until next Tuesday.

Sources have indicated that the government is aiming to delay imposing new restrictions until 30 or 31 December, but that it would be dependent on the daily number of new Covid-19 cases.

The Stormont Executive also agreed last night to impose a six-week lockdown in the North starting on St Stephen’s Day.

Measures are expected to include the closing of all non-essential retail as well as close-contact services, while the hospitality sector will be confined to takeaway services only.

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