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Jingle hell Christmas Covid-19 restrictions 'inevitable', experts warn

"Christmas socialisation is important and it matters but the more virus there is circulating when we do it, the riskier it is"

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Professor Antony Staines

Professor Antony Staines

Professor Antony Staines

As Covid infection rates slow public health experts have warned that despite the current lockdown it is impossible to avoid continued restrictions over Christmas.

The latest figures released by the Department of Health yesterday reported two further deaths and 542 new cases.

This brings to 1,947 the number of people who have died with Covid-19, while the total number of infections in the State stands at 65,394.

DCU Health Systems Professor Anthony Staines said that although the infection rate is falling, reopening in December will lead us back to another lockdown.

“If we continue with an aggressive programme to control this virus we could eliminate circulation of the virus by January, and we could have our economy back by February.

“If we don’t, what will happen is cases will go down by November and the first couple of weeks of December and then start ticking up.

“Christmas socialisation is important and it matters but the more virus there is circulating when we do it, the riskier it is.

“Probably in February we will be back where we are now.”

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DCU health systems professor Anthony Staines

DCU health systems professor Anthony Staines

DCU health systems professor Anthony Staines

Prof Staines criticised the national response in terms of establishing effective contact tracing.

He said although Christmas will be difficult for politicians to manoeuvre, “the Government is there to provide leadership”.

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“Europe has made a dog’s breakfast out of this. Europe is a disaster area,” he added.

“Nigeria’s public health department has less money than the Dublin public health department and they have managed to control the virus.”

Junior Minister Robert Troy yesterday failed to provide any clarity over what restrictions may be in place at Christmas, saying the situation would be kept "under review".

"I can't honestly say here today, in terms of what's going to happen at Christmas.

"Only to say that the Government with Nphet, with the public health advice, are keeping the situation under constant review to ensure that we can open up the economy as much as possible in December, and to ensure that we can have as good a Christmas as possible under the circumstances."

Dr Nuala O'Connor, the Irish College of General Practitioners' lead adviser on Covid-19, said the focus this year will be on a "safe" Christmas.

"I think we've all got to think carefully as a society how we're going to manage Christmas this year.

"Christmas is really important in Ireland. What we have to do is try and focus on how we can have Christmas but in a safer manner.

"Yes, Christmas will be a bit different because if we try to have it the normal way, if there's too much getting together of people in closed, crowded, poorly ventilated indoor spaces, that's exactly where this virus loves to spread.

Nphet chairman Cillian De Gascun said at the weekend the team was considering introducing a limit on the number of close contacts people will be allowed at Christmas.

Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion said the Government had to provide more clarity to allow people to plan for the festive season and tell then what it’s going to look like.

"People were told for the last number of weeks that they had to go into Level 5 to sort of save Christmas. Now we're seeing that it's going to be very restricted anyway.”

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