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People won’t be ‘on the lash’ this Christmas, Taoiseach warns

The Fianna Fail leader said the country is doing well to push down the number of Covid-19 cases.

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Social distancing in Dublin’s Phoenix Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

Social distancing in Dublin’s Phoenix Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

Social distancing in Dublin’s Phoenix Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ireland’s lockdown restrictions look set to be eased in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but the Taoiseach warned that people “won’t be on the lash”.

Micheal Martin said the public understands this Christmas will be different from previous years.

He said the Government is still working on the plan to exit Level 5 restrictions currently in place across the country.

The Fianna Fail leader said the country is doing well to push down the number of Covid-19 cases.

“I want to do better and get the numbers really down by the end of the month, that gives us better flexibility and room for the month of December and Christmas and beyond,” he told RTE.

“We do want a meaningful Christmas, we do understand the significance in our lives, we also understand that one cannot be at Level 5 forever.

“The exit plan is still being worked on across Government, we will consult with NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team).”

“I do get that people will want to meet with family. People know what works, and they know they won’t be on the lash this Christmas.

“We won’t have the office parties people had in previous years.”

Mr Martin said he believes churches will be open for the Christmas week, but added that the decision would be made by the end of November.

Following similar comments by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Mr Martin urged people to hold off booking flights home to Ireland for Christmas.

The evidence is that a lot of people will not be coming home. I don’t see the numbers anywhere like last year or previous yearsMicheal Martin

He added that the Government will “make a closer call” by the end of the month.

“Very few people are travelling,” he added.

“The evidence is that a lot of people will not be coming home. I don’t see the numbers anywhere like last year or previous years.

“We will take advice from NPHET but Government will take decisions on how we exit Level 5.”

Mr Martin also said he believes vulnerable groups will be able to access a Covid-19 vaccine in the first half of 2021.

“I don’t have precise knowledge on it as it depends on the clinical trials coming through the regular authorities,” he added.

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A man walks past the Brown Thomas Christmas window on Dublin’s Grafton Street (Brian Lawless/PA)

A man walks past the Brown Thomas Christmas window on Dublin’s Grafton Street (Brian Lawless/PA)

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A man walks past the Brown Thomas Christmas window on Dublin’s Grafton Street (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Martin said it is his “guesstimate” that the vaccine could become widely available by the middle of next year.

An additional 482 new cases of Covid-19 cases were notified to the Department of Health on Friday.

Seven more deaths related to the virus were also reported.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the increase in case numbers on Friday was an important reminder of the unpredictable nature of the highly infectious disease.

“The hard work undertaken by all of us over the last three weeks is to be commended but we must not allow our success to date let us drop our guard against the spread of this disease,” he said.

“We need to hold firm to the public health advice: keep two-metre distance, wash our hands, wear face coverings where appropriate and limit ourselves to essential contacts from our own household.

“If we can keep up high levels of compliance, we can get to where we need to be on December 1.”

As of 2pm today, 258 people with Covid-19 were in hospitals including 35 in ICU.

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Ireland’s second lockdown is due to end on December 1 (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ireland’s second lockdown is due to end on December 1 (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Ireland’s second lockdown is due to end on December 1 (Brian Lawless/PA)

The second lockdown is due to end on December 1.

Under the current restrictions, schools and creches have stayed open. Social or family gatherings have been prohibited, but visits on compassionate grounds and for caring purposes are allowed to continue.

Attendance at weddings has been maintained at 25 guests.

Restaurants, cafes and bars are restricted to takeaway services and only essential retail outlets are open.

People have been asked to stay at home, with exercise permitted within a 5km radius of their home.

Only essential workers whose physical presence is required in the workplace are permitted to travel to work, while those who can work from home must do so.

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