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Government monitoring case numbers but no restrictions on the cards this side of Christmas

Those in government circles are looking at the rise in cases in Europe, stating that Germany is a worrying example.

Government sources say there is no evidence yet of any exponential growth in numbers.
Government sources say there is no evidence yet of any exponential growth in numbers.
Image: RollingNews.ie

GOVERNMENT IS MONITORING the uptick in Covid-19 cases yesterday, however sources state they do not expect any new restrictions to be imposed before Christmas.

Yesterday, the Department of Health reported a further 429 new confirmed cases of Covid-19.

However, today’s numbers fell back to 264, with two deaths recorded.

The ICU number remains stable at 33 – up two since Sunday.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said yesterday he is concerned that the incidence of the virus is beginning to rise again.

However, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said a spike in Covid-19 cases was always going to be  “inevitable” as people mix over the Christmas holidays.

Those in government circles are looking at the rise in cases in Europe, saying that Germany is a worrying example. 

Germany has closed most shops and schools, and further limited social contacts in an effort to drive down the rate of Covid-19 infections that have remained stubbornly high in recent weeks.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she and the governors of Germany’s 16 states had agreed to step up the country’s lockdown measures from December 16 to January 10 to stop the exponential rise of Covid-19 cases.

However, there are currently no indications that Ireland is set to impose further restrictions in the run up to Christmas.

One source said that personal responsibility is more important now than ever.

Another senior government source said they did not expect any new restrictions this side of Christmas, with another agreeing, saying that you can never read too much into one day’s figures, though they acknowledged yesterday’s figures were worrying.

Those in government instead are keen to re-emphasis the message that every contact counts.

The Taoiseach said earlier this month that he does not anticipate new Covid-19 restrictions before Christmas.

As has always been the case, the government will be watching the case figures, but also the level of hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths before imposing any further restrictions.

‘Cop on’

Speaking to Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio One this morning, Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris said people have to show “cop on” when it comes to deciding who to see in the next few days ahead before Christmas Day.

“Just because things are open, does not mean you have to go to them,” he said.

“If you want to go to the pub and have a bite to eat and meet a few friends that’s okay, but don’t go and do that and then a couple of hours later have a restaurant booked with another group.

“We don’t want to arrive in a place on Christmas Day where there’s an awful lot of this virus in our communities.

“We have to show the common sense, the cop on that we’ve all been showing throughout this.”

Leo Varadkar said if further restrictions are introduced in January it “won’t be done lightly”.

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Government is wary of the rise in case numbers in Europe, but sources say capacity has been built into the Irish health system to deal with a surge, it would prefer not to have to do so.

Currently, those in power are content that the hospital numbers remain low, as do the ICU figures, with no excess deaths reported this winter, and no evidence yet of any exponential growth.

At the time of announcing that the country would be moving to Level 3 for December, the Taoiseach said the government will not be afraid to act to bring in restrictions in January if Covid-19 numbers rise exponentially.

However, a warning was also issued by the Taoiseach that if numbers rise, restrictions could be back on the cards in early 2021. 

Government sources believe there is a “high chance” a short circuit breaker of two weeks might be needed in January, with the view that such a move would be better than four weeks of restrictions in February or March. 

However, such restrictions are likely to only impact the hospitality sector, with non-essential retail set to remain open.

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