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Taoiseach says life satisfaction levels played key role in Christmas reopening

Micheal Martin revealed Central Statistics Office data has shown worrying levels of public unhappiness.

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Micheal Martin admitted there are risks involved in lifting many of the pandemic restrictions (Julien Behal Photography)

Micheal Martin admitted there are risks involved in lifting many of the pandemic restrictions (Julien Behal Photography)

Micheal Martin admitted there are risks involved in lifting many of the pandemic restrictions (Julien Behal Photography)

Research showing alarming levels of low life-satisfaction among the public played a role in the Government’s decision to reopen the country for Christmas.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has admitted there are risks involved in lifting many of the pandemic restrictions for the festive period.

But he said that had to be balanced with people’s wellbeing, with Central Statistics Office data showing worrying levels of unhappiness among the public.

“There are risks attached to this” Mr Martin said, as he urged the public to remain vigilant during the festive period.

He added: “We received advice from the Central Statistics Office in terms of their surveys about a high level of low overall life satisfaction.

“As far back as last April, coming out of the first wave, there was about 29.5% of people with a low level of life satisfaction as a result of the pandemic.

“There’s new figures coming out next Monday which will be higher than that. At that time it was about 5.5% in addition to the 29.5%, who were downhearted on a consistent basis. These are balances we have to address.

“If you look at it the other way around, could we really sustain a closure of restaurants and other areas for another eight weeks, and the impacts on people’s wellbeing and sense of needing to get out and meet with some friends?

“This is a balancing act. We will keep an eye on this obviously, and we will be working with Nphet and others to make sure that this is kept under constant review.”

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin addressed the nation on exiting from Level 5 (Julien Behal/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin addressed the nation on exiting from Level 5 (Julien Behal/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin addressed the nation on exiting from Level 5 (Julien Behal/PA)

While bans on retail, restaurants, gastropubs and household visits will all open at varying stages throughout December, wet pubs are set to remain shut.

Extra supports have been introduced to help the sector, which has remained closed for the majority of the pandemic.

The Taoiseach has said the decision not to reopen wet pubs was based on data showing they can lead to a spike in infections.

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Mr Martin said he believes that reopening the sector would lead to a higher number of cases, at a much faster rate.

He said: “Some of the data compiled by EY, if you look at the local electoral areas, towards the end of September you’ll see 10 days after the reopening of wet pubs the numbers going up very significantly.

“The data is very clear. Cities like Cork and Galway went up very significantly, areas in Cavan and Meath. So unfortunately there is a difference, the discipline of sitting down for a meal, that does create a different type of environment to the pub environment.

“We’re not as low now in terms of numbers as we would have been during the summer. So there is risk attached to opening up part of society and the economy.

“We’ve got to mitigate that risk as far as we can. It’s my genuine view that if we had decided to open up wet pubs, we would be looking at far higher numbers, far faster.”

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has called on people to use their “common sense” when deciding whether to embark on international travel at Christmas.

With the possibility that people will fly home for the festive period, the public health advice remains that people should only fly for essential reasons.

Mr Ryan said it will be up to individuals to use their judgment, and that the Government will not set a strict definition on “essential” travel.

He said: “It is a judgment call. Everyone’s family circumstances are different. Irish people collectively are, by and large, making the decision not to travel.

“The volumes are minimal, a fraction of what they were previously. What we’re seeing is that’s going to continue through this period.

“It does have to be case by case, every individual looking at what their family needs. I don’t think it’s for us to categorise that. If you are coming back, just be careful. Be part of what is a collective effort and use common sense.”

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has admitted he is as keen as anyone to meet friends and visit restaurants again.

He said: “I have to admit to suffering cabin fever over the last few weeks so it will be gym and haircut on Wednesday and restaurant at the weekend with some friends I haven’t seen for months.

“I really can’t wait. I really hope that people do make the best of December and enjoy some of the personal freedoms that we all miss so much.”

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