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Taoiseach says it is 'far too early to say what type of Christmas we will be having'

Government aims to have travel traffic light system up and running by 8 November.

The Taoiseach says the focus is making Level 5 work.
The Taoiseach says the focus is making Level 5 work.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said it is “far too early to say what type of Christmas we will be having”.

Speaking at the launch of the “Keep Well” campaign at Government Buildings in Dublin, the Taoiseach was asked a number of questions relating to planning for Christmas and travel around Christmas. 

Micheal Martin said the Government was focusing on making Level 5 restrictions work. He wanted to wait until the end of November before making decisions about the festive period, he said.

The focus right now is on “getting the numbers really down”, said Martin.

“It’s early days yet, but if we push we can be in a better place,” he said, stating that his aim is to get the numbers low by the end of November, and a review of the restrictions will take place towards latter end of the six weeks. 

“I think people want this to work and if we get the numbers really down then we can look to managing it then for the next number of months,” Martin said.

Judging by the numbers, the Taoiseach said the government has “an idea of what Level 3 can do now”. He wants to get the numbers “really down so we can have a meaningful Christmas”. 

“I think we are in a position to do that,” he said.

“It is just too early to identity what is going to be happening in and around the Christmas period,” he said. The Taoiseach said he would be in a much better position to give advice towards after the six weeks, stating that anything he says now could be redundant in a few weeks time. 

Traffic light system of travel set for November

The Taoiseach confirmed that it is still the government’s target to have the travel traffic light system operational in Ireland on 8 November.

Ireland has agreed to align with the new EU traffic light plan for international travel, which will see the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control publishing a weekly map of the EU using a three-stage colour system to indicate the level of risk in each area.

From midnight on 8 November, the requirement for those arriving from orange locations to restrict their movements can be waived, if they have a negative test result up to three days before arrival.

Yesterday, Transport Minister has said the government wants an airport testing system in place not just for Christmas but beyond so as to make it easier for people to travel.

Martin said Ireland is “supportive” of the traffic light system. When asked about whether he would warn people off booking flights homes for Christmas, he said that in terms of people’s “individual positions I’m not becoming involved”.

His comments come ahead of a European Leaders’ virtual meeting this evening where testing models and European-wide approach to travel will be discussed.

Leaders will adopt a recommendation for the use of rapid antigen tests, as well as Member States committing to submit national strategies on testing by mid-November, with a move to directly purchasing rapid antigen tests.

Leaders will also discuss testing requirements for incoming travellers, and where no testing capacities are available for asymptomatic travellers in the country of origin, travellers should be offered the possibility to undergo a test after arrival.

They will also discuss how mutual recognition of tests is essential, particularly in the context of travel.

Martin said the issue on testing and rapid testing technologies still has to be resolved, but he said public health authorities are working on validating such tests.

If and when there is a drop off in numbers, “we don’t want to reignite the virus again” or  “reseed it”, said the Taoiseach.

“Caution will prevail right throughout Christmas,” he said. 

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“It will be a different Christmas, it will be meaningful Christmas,” said Martin, but added that this is all “dependent on Level 5 working”. 

The latest figures show that there are 330 cases in hospital and 42 in ICU with Covid-19.

“The data is very positive,” said Health Minsiter Stephen Donnelly today. 

“The positivity rate is coming down. Hospitalisations and ICUs are holding steady.”

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