Household visits to be allowed for two weeks at Christmas, Varadkar says

ireland
Leo Varadkar, © PA Media
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Digital Desk Staff

The Government will likely allow people to visit the homes of their friends and family over a two-week period approaching Christmas next month, the Tánaiste has said.

Leo Varadkar said the Government hoped to introduce a similar measure to Northern Ireland to allow household visits “for something closer to two weeks” in the Republic, according to the Irish Times.

In the North, up to three households will be permitted to meet between December 23rd and December 27th as part of a UK-wide deal.

Speaking on Wednesday at an event in Grand Canal Dock in Dublin calling for people to support local businesses, Mr Varadkar said: “It is the Government’s objective to have family dinner, Christmas day, as normal as possible.”

A date would then kick in in January where restrictions would be tightened again

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The current expectation in Government is that limits on home visits would then need to be reimposed following the holiday period.

“A date would then kick in in January where restrictions would be tightened again, but again that’ll depend on the numbers,” Mr Varadkar said.

“We won’t reimpose restrictions just for the sake of it, we’ll only reimpose restrictions if the virus is taking off again.”

Mr Varadkar said that while he hoped the country would not need to introduce another Level 5 lockdown, “it is not possible to rule that out.”

“If it does happen at all, we would intend it to be much shorter, more like two or three weeks than the six that we’ve experienced,” he said.

Nphet

A phased easing of lockdown restrictions over the month of December will be announced by the Government on Friday.

Mr Varadkar said the Government aimed to keep the rules “simple and straightforward”.

Cabinet would decide the final plan following further advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), he added.

Nphet met this morning, a day earlier than usual, to consider whether the country should exit Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions next week.

It is expected Ireland will move to a modified Level 3 next week with retail reopening. However, hotels and restaurants will be later in the month, and wet pubs will stay closed.

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The Cabinet met yesterday to discuss potential options for reopening the country ahead of Christmas, with Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath saying the plans would not be able to please everyone if the country wishes to keep the transmission of the virus low.

Mr Varadkar said yesterday a third lockdown may be needed in January because of celebrations over Christmas but Professor of Public Health at UCC, Patricia Kearney, says the Government must work out how that can be avoided.

Ireland
Third lockdown may be 'necessary' in new year, Var...
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"It's a blunt instrument and it's appropriate to use as a way to give us time to try to put a strategy in place. We have used it twice now and I really don't think that we should be facing it again in the New Year.

"I would call on our political leaders to think differently and see how we can avoid going into a lockdown and what other strategies do we need to get to a point of really suppressing this virus."

There were 226 new cases of Covid-19 detected in the Republic yesterday - while six more deaths associated with the disease were confirmed.

The estimated national 14-day incidence rate now stands at 107 cases per 100,000 - the lowest it has been since October 3rd.

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