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safe celebrations 'We still need to keep our guard up' over Christmas, warns Professor Luke O'Neill


luke o'neill

luke o'neill

luke o'neill

EVEN immunologist Luke O'Neill is holding his breath when it comes to Christmas.

The Trinity biochemist is in England wondering if he will be able to get home - and even if he did, his 90-year-old mother-in-law is in a nursing home and unlikely to be able to celebrate with the family.

"We're all in similar situations," he said, conceding that it is "going to be difficult" but that we are approaching endgame with a vaccine coming in the new year "if we are lucky".

"A good analogy is a boxing match," he said. "We're starting to win but we still need to keep our guard up because there could still be a knockout punch."

With government guidelines for Christmas set to be unveiled today, Professor O'Neill believes three households will be permitted to get together so long as requirements are met for social distancing, handwashing and face coverings, along with adequate ventilation - but he warned people should not spend too long together on the day.

"You can't be hanging around for 10 hours in a stuffy room playing Trivial Pursuit together because that's how the virus spreads," he said.

Prof O'Neill is maintaining a strong sense of optimism, saying we could look back after all this is over with a sense of pride.


"We can tell ourselves that we did protect people while still managing to have a Christmas and to celebrate in a safe way," he said.

"The hurricane is still raging but we have definitely made progress," he said.

"What will happen is the vaccine will get rid of the virus - it will be like the flu and we won't be as fearful of it. The treatment is now much better and that will continue to improve so that in the end, it will be like any other infection.

"Once the death rate goes low, the fear goes away."

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After it's all over, Prof O'Neill believes we may become like certain Asian countries where people wear masks on occasions, to avoid viruses like the flu.

"Maybe we'll get fed up of wearing masks but you never know."

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