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Government 'very unlikely' to shut non-essential retail from 26 December in spite of fresh NPHET advice

Professor Philip Nolan has said he is not confidence the current set of restrictions will being transmission levels under control.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT IS not expected to make any changes to Christmas restrictions, despite fresh advice from health officials to close non-essential retail from St Stephen’s Day.

Under new restrictions announced this week, hospitality businesses like restaurants and gastro pubs will be forced to close from 3pm today. However non-essential retailers can stay open into the New Year and are only asked to defer large sales events that would see crowds queuing up outside.

Following a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) yesterday, government was advised to implement tighter restrictions, including the closure of non-essential retail from 26 December.

Government sources have said it is “very unlikely” that any further changes to restrictions will be made ahead of Christmas. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Foreign Affairs Minister said the Cabinet will keep NPHET’s advice “to the fore” when it meets on 29 December, but he did not anticipate the government will act on it before then. 

“Let’s not forget the decisions we have already made and let’s ensure that we focus on compliance with those recommendations and that we appeal to people and get very clear messaging to people in terms of what we’re expecting of them to keep everybody safe through Christmas.”

Coveney said the government “is there to make decisions on all of the information we have” and there has been “no collective response” to the new advice from NPHET yesterday,

‘Prove me wrong’

Also speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the modelling advisory group, said he is “not confident” that the measures announced on Tuesday will bring the reproductive number below one.

“What I’d really like is for the people of Ireland to prove me wrong,” he added.

“We’re looking at the force of infection, how rapidly the virus is growing and we’re looking at how effective all of the different measures that we’ve had in place in the society in the past have been. We’re heading towards 1,000 cases a day.

They’re the circumstances in which really as a society, we have no option but to pull back completely, suppress the virus to certain extent and then think about what are our priority activities are in terms of working together as a society

Nolan said officials have noted that formal restrictions can work one month to suppress the virus but have little impact another month. He said this comes down to personal responsibility and decisions. 

“Does each and every one of us take due care and attention in how we, not only observe the restrictions, but observe the details of the guidance? It’s very difficult I have to – I have to acknowledge this – this isn’t the kind of Christmas Eve I was hoping to have last August or September or October. It’s really tiring, and if it’s tiring for me it’s infinitely more tiring for many other people listening.”

Nolan said this time “it’s coming at us really fast and really hard” and decisions now will determine where we are in January in February. 

He said the core message now is “not to be fearful or downcast” and to try to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way while being careful that we do not put the vulnerable people around us at risk.

He said the people we spend time with over the coming days should be “the people we love the most” but if we have been socialising a lot lately or travelling, “the right thing to do for a loved one is to stay away”.

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- With reporting from Christina Finn.

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