Restrictions hope Limit on numbers for household visits may be lifted for the week of Christmas
Limits on household visits may be lifted for a brief time during Christmas week under plans being considered by the Government.
Inter-county travel will also be allowed for a short period to allow people to go home to see their family and friends.
However, the public will be asked to limit their interactions to one main gathering during Christmas week to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“We want people to enjoy a safe Christmas, but we will be asking them not to go to lots of different households,” a government source said.
The country will be put under Level 3 restrictions once the second national lockdown comes to an end on December 1.
It is expected different grades of Level 3 will then be introduced throughout the month, depending on the rate of new infections.
A number of options are being considered by Government and there is serious concern about managing expectations ahead of the lockdown ending.
However, central to their plans is a major easing of restrictions in the last week of December.
This advice, which will be issued closer to Christmas week, will ask people to exercise caution and follow social distancing rules during the festive period.
The final decision on the advice will depend on the rate of Covid-19 cases once the lockdown ends.
However, there are plans to lift the current ban on household visits for Christmas week and there will be no restrictions on the number of people allowed in a household.
The Government will ask people to take personal responsibility if they have visitors in their homes, but they will not impose a limit on how many friends or family members you can have in your house.
People will be asked to choose one day when they have a significant family gathering to celebrate Christmas.
This will not necessarily have to be December 25, but will have to be during the short period when restrictions are loosened.
“Nearer to Christmas the restrictions on household visits may be loosened and we may not put numbers on how many you can have in your house,” a Government source said.
“You would pick your day when you want to have your family gathering and you work around that.”
The source said people will be urged to follow the public guidelines on social distancing and asked not to hug family members, especially if they are older or vulnerable.
“The gardaí will not be knocking on your door on Christmas day,” the source added.
The recent increase in the virus has caused concern among ministers and officials, but it is hoped the spike in cases are linked to people holding parties over Halloween.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will give their recommendations for exiting lockdown next week.
Several senior government figures, including ministers and officials, yesterday said there are no plans to extend the lockdown beyond December 1.
However, there is frustration that new cases have not decreased in the past week and there is concern that the reproduction rate has increased.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar have come under pressure from their party members to give clarity to retailers and the hospitality industry on what restrictions will be in place in December.
No decision has been taken on whether pubs and restaurants will be allowed to open over Christmas or if indoor services will be permitted.
It is believed to be highly unlikely that wet pubs will be allowed open.
Some publicans have told TDs they do not want to open over the Christmas period because they are concerned they will be blamed for helping to spread of the virus in their communities.
Download the Sunday World app