Decision on Christmas visits to be made 'a few weeks out', according to Health Minister

ireland
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Digital Desk staff

A decision to allow people to visit family in other parts of the country for Christmas will only be made 'a few weeks' out from the holiday, the health minister has said.

As the Irish Examiner reports, Stephen Donnelly hopes the country will be down to level 1 by the end of December, but said Christmas restrictions will be highly dependent on the spread of the virus at the time.

Mr Donnelly has also ruled out any extension to the school mid-term break later this month.

Asked specifically if people will be allowed home to other parts of the country for Christmas, Mr Donnelly said:

"Essentially, the question is when will we know what level the country is at on the 25th of December or in and around the Christmas period? And that's something that will be looked at very closely at the time.

"It really depends where the epidemiological situation is at the time and I would say, based on what we have looked at so far, we usually look a few weeks in advance, certainly around about now it would be impossible for anyone to be predicting what level the disease will be asked towards the end of December.

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"What I want to see, what everyone wants to see is it pushing right back down and we can all have a great Christmas," he said.

Midterm break

Responding to reports that schools could be closed for two weeks instead of one at Halloween, Mr Donnelly said there are no plans to extend the break.

"There isn't going to be a longer midterm break."

He added: "It's based on some very good news out of the schools, the teachers, the principals, the schools have done an incredible job.

"I received a briefing just this weekend on where we're at, and the evidence I'm delighted to be able to say is that the schools are not contributing to a rise in numbers.

"If we look at the number of school-aged children who have had the virus or contracted the virus before schools open and afterward, they're about the same. So the reports I'm getting are that the schools are safe, they're safe for children, that there's a very low level of transmission."

Earlier today, Minister of State for Further and Higher Education Niall Collins said he wished to "knock on the head" the idea that schools may be closed for a longer period of time than usual.

“There is absolutely no plan to close our schools beyond the traditional one-week break around Halloween,” the Fianna Fáil TD said.

"All the public health advice which is available shows quite clearly that schools are not an issue in terms of the transmission of Covid,” Mr Collins said, adding that the country owed it to children to keep schools open and bring normality to their lives.

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