Covid-19: 'Range of options' for Christmas gatherings if cases keep falling

Dr Colm Henry, HSE chief clinical officer, speaking during a Covid-19 briefing at the Department of Health in Dublin. Photo: PA
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Vivienne Clarke

The HSE's chief clinical officer has said he is optimistic that people will have options to meet together at Christmas if the current trend of decreasing Covid-19 cases continues.

Dr Colm Henry said he was hopeful that people will be able to gather in some way at for the festive period. “When you look at the whole spectrum of experience across Europe we're almost best in class in terms of reversing the trends,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.

“I'm really hoping we'll be in a position to go back, that we'll have options, that we'll have a range of options that will allow for people coming together. The better we perform now, the better options we'll have in December.”

Dr Henry said he was optimistic because Ireland had managed to turn the tide for a second time at a time when the situation in mainland Europe was very frightening.


“We turned the tide again in this country due to the collective efforts of each and every individual up and down the country – from Malin Head down to Wexford. We're one of the few countries in Europe with a falling rate – that famous 14-day incidence rate is now half what it was in October.

“We're keeping our hospitals safe, our emergency departments, and all other hospital services are open for business, if you need urgent or emergency care they are there for you.”

Volatile situation

Dr Henry acknowledged that it was “extraordinarily difficult” for people to have to decide not come home for Christmas.

“The idea of the loss of Christmas makes our collective hearts sink, there's no doubt about that. The situation is completely volatile at the moment – it's important to look at that.

“There's so much uncertainty, so much volatility, so it's hard to give people a direct message, to say it's ok, things will be fine by Christmas it will be safe to come home. The place that you're living now is safe and we'll have a low level of Covid in the week running up to Christmas when you plan to come home. We simply can't say that.

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“We don't want to run the risk of reintroducing Covid because of a lax approach.”

Dr Henry said he wanted to see the country push through the gains made during the first weeks of Level 5. “We want to get cases down to 50 per day so we can have more options in December than we had a couple of weeks ago.

“We're on track to be in a position where we will have many more options.”

The National Public Health Emergency Team will make a recommendation at the beginning of December based on public health and the Government will make a decision based on broader interests, such as employment and the economy, he said.

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