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'Tough ask' Leo Varadkar warns Irish abroad to not book flights home for Christmas

He warned that even with a move to a lower level of restrictions in December, there were still be “embers of the virus” in the community.

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Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar has advised Irish people abroad not to book flights home for Christmas.

The Tánaiste said “I know that's a tough message” as he warned that it was too soon for returnees to be planning to come back to Ireland for the festive season.

“In terms of people booking flights for Christmas to come home, I advise them not to do that at the moment, I know that's difficult. I know that’s a tough ask,” he told the Dáil.

“Christmas is six weeks away. And it's too soon now, I think, for people to be booking flights to come home.”

He warned that even with a move to a lower level of restrictions in December, there were still “embers of the virus” in the community, “and as we meet again those embers can be fanned.”

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People wearing protective face masks at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport as a requirement for people arriving in Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

People wearing protective face masks at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport as a requirement for people arriving in Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

People wearing protective face masks at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport as a requirement for people arriving in Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Varadkar made a comparison to a 1967 outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in England, when Irish people there were asked not to come home, “and they didn't.”

The Tánaiste admitted: “They didn't come into Ireland, and I’m not saying it's the same. But certainly, we’re not in the position at this point to advise people that it's safe to come home for Christmas.

“I know that's a tough message to hear but that is the case for the short term,” he told TDs.

“International travel is a risk, I think we need to be upfront and honest about that.”

But he added that virus levels were down as a result of Level 5 lockdown. “We’re doing really well in that regard. We’re ahead of the projections at the moment in terms of getting the virus under control.

“The average number of weekly cases is a quarter of what it was only a few weeks ago. The positivity rate has fallen from 7pc to 3pc now. So it’s very much going in the right direction.

“But there is a risk that as we get down to very low levels again that the country could be re-seeded by people traveling in from overseas.”

Yet Mr Varadkar admitted to Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall that there was “probably a higher risk at the moment from people engaged in North-South travel, “where a different approach is being taken in Northern Ireland.”

The risk of Covid-19 in the Republic being re-seeded from Northern Ireland was “probably much higher risk of flights from Qatar flights or from Miami", although they are a risk as well.

“We need to bear in mind because Ireland is an island, but we're not an island state. There are two jurisdictions and we’re never going to close the border between North and South.

“So we have to bear in mind we're not in the same boat as other island nations might be.”

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