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Taoiseach concerned Time to limit socialising if you want to see family at Christmas


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HSE's Paul Reid is preparing for Ireland's biggest-ever vaccination roll-out

HSE's Paul Reid is preparing for Ireland's biggest-ever vaccination roll-out

Photocall Ireland

HSE's Paul Reid is preparing for Ireland's biggest-ever vaccination roll-out

PEOPLE have been urged to limit their contacts with others in the run-up to Christmas after a worrying rise in Covid-19 infections.

As the country prepares to ease travel restrictions on Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned the imminent roll-out of vaccines will not offer instant relief from the pandemic.

429 new infections and one further death were confirmed yesterday.

"I am very concerned at those numbers," said Mr Martin. "What I would say to people is that every contact matters.

"If people want to enjoy Christmas with their loved ones, particularly their parents or grandparents, it is extremely important that they watch their behaviour over the coming week."

From Friday, people will be able to travel outside their county in order to spend Christmas with their loved ones. There is no indication as yet that this will be put on hold if infections continue to rise over the coming days.

Mr Martin said he did not believe a third lockdown was now inevitable in January - but he stressed that avoiding it was in the public's hands.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said he was concerned, and that people must now weigh up the risks of whatever socialising they are planning over the coming days.

Almost two weeks since the country emerged from Level 5 lockdown, Dr Holohan said: "I am concerned that we are seeing the incidence of Covid-19 rising again - 429 is a large number of cases by the standard of recent weeks and the five-day moving average has increased above 300 per day."

The 14-day incidence figure now stands at 84.3 cases per 100,000 people.

He said the latest figures must be taken "as a sign that we all must now reduce our social contacts, limit our interactions with those outside our households, weigh the risks of what socialising we are planning over the next two weeks".

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said while "we can't draw conclusions from any one day", he acknowledged: "The situation takes very little to move back into rapid growth."

Professor Sam McConkey, infectious disease specialist, said he did not believe the opening up of travel from Friday should be reversed due to the high number of new infections recorded yesterday.

Speaking to the Herald, he recommended "pre-isolation" for anyone travelling to stay with family.

"Culturally balancing things amid a relaxation on the 18th is OK.

"We are not saying we're opening up the country - it's allowing for the meeting together with three households. You're supposed to stay with those households.

"There's a benefit in pre-isolation, socially restricting movements before seeing family, to prevent yourself from getting Covid.

"People should be able to travel but take into consideration what they do, who they see."

Meanwhile, the Cabinet will tomorrow consider the plan that has been drawn up for the country's biggest-ever vaccination roll-out.

HSE chief Paul Reid said on RTÉ's This Week: "We have been working on this for quite some time now."

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