Still hope for a 'meaningful Christmas', says Taoiseach

Micheál Martin said the focus for Ireland now has to be on "getting the numbers down really low"
Still hope for a 'meaningful Christmas', says Taoiseach

The Ferris Wheel that was part to the Glow Christmas Celebration on Grand Parade in Cork last year. Picture: Clare Keogh

It is too early to say what Christmas in Ireland will look like, the Taoiseach says, but some guidance on Christmas travel could be given within the next fortnight.

Micheál Martin said the focus for Ireland now has to be on "getting the numbers down really low" and said that if numbers are low at the end of the six-week lockdown period, there was hope of "a meaningful Christmas".

Mr Martin said, however, that any real clarity on how Christmas will shape up across the country would have to come at the end of November or the beginning of December.

"The key challenge is making sure that Level 5 works. We will review this closer to the latter end of the six weeks and we're already thinking through that," he said.

"It is still too early to say what kind of Christmas we will be experiencing.

“I think people want this to work and if we get the numbers down then we can look at managing it then, for the next number of months.

"It is just too early to identify what is going to be happening in and around the Christmas period."

The Taoiseach added that the virus had "taught us that it is volatile and unpredictable" and, at this point, he could not make recommendations on what people might do in the run-up to Christmas.

"Caution will prevail, right throughout the Christmas period."

Mr Martin also said that he could not speculate whether Irish people should book flights to come from abroad for Christmas, but said the country still plans to implement the EU traffic-light system on November 8.

Micheál Martin.
Micheál Martin.

Within government, that attitude is echoed, with sources saying that there are "too many variables" to predict which countries would be where in that system by Christmas.

"A lot of people will want to come home from the UK, but with their numbers the way they are, we will need a real solution," one source said.

A senior cross-Departmental technical working group will report back to Government on November 10 with a plan to establish approved Covid-19 tests for international arrivals, with Transport Minister Eamon Ryan on Wednesday saying that he hoped that pre-flight testing would be available before Christmas. 

The working group's recommendations are seen as key to travel over the period.

The Taoiseach was speaking as the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) announced a further six deaths from the virus and another 866 cases, pushing Ireland above the 60,000 mark for cases since the outbreak of the pandemic. 

Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health Dr Tony Holohan appealed to the public to self-isolate if they have symptoms and to only leave home for essential reasons.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that the current trend in Ireland is positive, despite high numbers of cases. 

"The data is very positive," he said.

"Three days ago was the first day where the seven-day rate was less than half of the 14-day rate.

“The positivity rate is coming down. Hospitalisations and ICU admissions are holding steady.

"Moving to Level 5 was a pre-emptive strike."


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