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XMAS WARNING 'You can socialise or visit family over Christmas but not both,' Dr Ronan Glynn warns

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Dr Ronan Glynn

Dr Ronan Glynn

Colin Keegan

Dr Ronan Glynn

PEOPLE need to sacrifice socialising with friends if they want to spend Christmas with older relatives, the public is being warned.

The country’s most senior health advisers have said we cannot afford to keep company with people from other households in pubs and restaurants, if we want to avoid picking up the virus and passing it on to vulnerable relatives.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan cautioned the country could find itself in serious difficulty if people “let go” as we begin the phased exit from lockdown today.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn added: “If you are planning on meeting elderly relatives or people from different households now is not the time to be socialising.

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Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan

Colin Keegan

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan

“If we have significant levels of intergenerational mixing over the Christmas and New Year period, and if that comes on the back of weeks of socialising, we will end up with significant issues with case numbers and the trajectory of the disease.”

Dr Holohan admitted that it will be a “challenge” to stop the further spread of infection if festive socialising increases and each person does not accept their “individual responsibility”.

Christmas parties should “not be happening”, he said.

Cases will rise if there is more entertaining among friends and people don’t do everything to drive down their contacts.

He said alcohol is at the heart of a lot of scenes where the virus was passed on and it is a “very significant common factor” in transmission.

He also appealed to people to stay away from crowds in shops and said nobody is “compelled” to get into these situations whether in retail or on a bus.

However, he praised shop management for the way they have shown such commitment to providing a safe environment for staff and customers.

For the first time, both Dr Holohan and Dr Glynn wore face masks entering and leaving the media room in the Department of Health for the evening briefing.

Dr Holohan was speaking as another Covid-related death was announced, bringing the November toll to 119 compared to 37 in September.

There were 306 new cases yesterday although at this point it was hoped they would be 50-100. Yesterday’s cases included 108 in Dublin, 30 in Limerick, 22 in Galway, 17 in Donegal, 15 in Wicklow and 14 in Cork.

The remaining 100 cases were spread across 18 other counties.

The number of patients with Covid in hospital is steady

with some 244 in wards yesterday, including 31 in intensive care.

Ireland is among the best performers in Europe during this second winter wave of the virus and the 14-day incidence rate here is now down to 89.2 per 100,000 , compared to over 300 per 100,000 in October.

The European average for deaths is 40 a day, but in Ireland it is as low as six.

If restrictions had not been imposed here when they were it’s likely there would have been many more cases and hospitalisations.

It comes as HSE public health doctors, who are key to managing the Covid-19 pandemic, yesterday warned they will engage in three days of strike action if their long-running campaign for consultant status and increased pay is not addressed.

The doctors, who are members of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), said they will strike on January 14.

Two further strikes will follow on January 21 and 22.

Dr Ina Kelly, chair of the Public Health Committee of the IMO said: “As a doctor who has committed my career to public health and the improvement of health outcomes for the population I am deeply distressed that it has come to this.

“It really is time for Government to step up to the plate and recognise their own ethical obligations and to honour agreements”.

They expressed deep disappointment at the lack of concern they say the Government has displayed about this issue and criticised what they described as misleading commentary from Government.

The Public Health Committee insisted it is not simply about a pay claim but about recognising the importance of consultants leading multi-disciplinary teams in a fully resourced public health service for Ireland.

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