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Taoiseach: Advice on travelling home from abroad for Christmas will be given at end of November

The Fianna Fáil leader was speaking on the News at One this lunchtime.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said that ”at this moment people should wait” before booking flights home to Ireland for Christmas, but added that clarity on that issue and other arrangements for Christmas would be given before Level 5 ends.

Speaking on the News at One with Bryan Dobson, Martin said that the government will give people notice “before the end of November” of what the plans for the Christmas period will be “so that people can make preparations”.

But he added that it would not be like Christmas last year: “I get the sense from public they know it’ll be different, that not everybody – if I use the phrase – ‘will be on the lash’ for Christmas, and we won’t have office parties that people might have had in previous years.”

He said that he did believe churches would be open for Christmas week, saying that the weeks leading up to Christmas were also important and that it was important for people’s mental health. 

When asked whether Gardaí would be knocking on people’s doors on Christmas Eve to enforce Level 3 restrictions, Martin said “that’s not going to happen”.

The Fianna Fáil leader said that the “exit plan” from Level 5 is still being worked on, but that there could be a staged approach to move out of Level 5.

Martin said the preference was to come out of Level 5 nationally, but said that areas such as Donegal were a “concern”. He said that more effort was needed, “from a communications point of view”, to reduce the cases in that county down further.

Donegal’s 14-day incidence rate is currently 281.4 cases per 100,000 – a slight decrease from 286.4 cases per 100,000 last week, and far above the national rate of 145.

There has been confusion about what preparations should be made about the Christmas period, after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that people should wait before booking flights home to Ireland, while the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan went a step further last night, saying that flying home for Christmas was not essential.

“We think people should avoid non-essential travel and continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” Dr Holohan said, adding that inter-county travel would be decided on at the end of the month.

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“That includes the Christmas period, and we would feel that the kind of travel that would normally happen at Christmas time, people coming back to spend time with their loved ones, [...] we have to regard as non-essential for this Christmas.”

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