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Trick or threat Horror for kids as Simon Harris urges them to 'forget Halloween'

Extended mid-term break is abandoned by Health Minister


Children have been advised against trick or treating (Joe Giddens/PA)

Children have been advised against trick or treating (Joe Giddens/PA)

Children have been advised against trick or treating (Joe Giddens/PA)

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has told the nation's children that they should forget about Halloween as they know it this year.

Urging children to hear his message, he said: "It's not a good idea to be traipsing around to everyone's house."

In a video uploaded to Instagram, Mr Harris said the children of Ireland appreciated "blunt honesty" and respond well to it.

The message came as chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan warned last night that there are "rapidly increasing growth rates" of Covid-19 across the country.

A further 814 cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday, as well as two more deaths.

As of 2pm yesterday, 204 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 30 were in ICU.

There were 16 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours, a statement released by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) said.

It follows grim figures from Saturday which showed 1,012 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and three more deaths.

Dr Holohan said: "It is vital the entire population consistently implements public health advice in their daily lives.

"Keep your social contacts to an absolute minimum and keep physical distance when you need to be out of your home."

Of the cases notified yesterday, 226 were in Dublin, 77 were in Cork, 64 in Galway, 56 in Donegal, 48 in Meath and the remaining cases were spread across all remaining counties.

There was some positive news for Dublin, however, where the 'r-number' - the rate at which the virus spreads to other people - is at one.

It stands at 1.6 for the rest of the country.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said there is hope because the country is only in the first week of Level 3 restrictions which previously worked in Kildare, Laois and Offaly and may be working in Dublin. He said the challenge in the coming week is to work together to "push this virus back down".

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has admitted that a "short hard lockdown" known as a circuit breaker may be needed to reduce Covid-19 but has also said it "breaks my heart" to think of a second lockdown.

Mr Donnelly said the idea of a circuit-breaker is a time-limited period of Level 5 restrictions and "it's not something that's being considered right now."

In Mr Harris's video uploaded to Instagram, he said he had a message to send to the children of Ireland.

"A message to our children - I think they've been amazing throughout this pandemic.

"I have received a lot of messages from children about Halloween, and in the past when we were blunt and honest, our kids have responded with resilience. It's been so tough for them.

"They had communions cancelled, confirmations cancelled, schools closed, exams cancelled and graduations held online.

"But in relation to Halloween, it's going to be different this year."

However, he suggested Halloween can be celebrated in many other ways.

He wrote: "That doesn't mean you can't have a good time and dress up.

"It doesn't mean that mam and dad can't get sweets into the house or you can't watch a spooky movie," he said.

It comes as Stephen Donnelly confirmed schools won't be taking an extended mid-term break later this month.

Parents, teachers and business leaders have been demanding clarity after it was revealed on Friday that a proposal to add an extra week to the Halloween mid-term break had been discussed briefly.

Mr Donnelly last night said there "isn't going to be a longer mid-term break".

He said schools were not contributing to a rise in Covid-19 infections and keeping them open was "a big priority".

Separately, consultant in infectious diseases at the Mater Hospital Dr Jack Lambert has warned threats of lockdown are damaging the public's mental health and said the Government should instead push better messaging on wearing masks indoors and outdoors.

Dr Lambert said lockdown is bad for people's mental health and isn't helping the situation.

"If we really want to stop the spread of the virus, we need the Government, as of now, to instruct absolutely everyone to wear masks inside and outside.

"Anyone who lives with a vulnerable person, an older person, needs to wear a mask when they are at home with them.

"This is the best way to keep people safe," he added.