Q&A: What will Christmas be like post-lockdown? 

Hopes country can move at least to level 3 for much of December
Q&A: What will Christmas be like post-lockdown? 

A passenger bids farewell in a quiet Dublin Airport   on Monday  afternoon as the countdown to the end of  level 5 Covid restrictions approaches. Picture Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin

With just days until an announcement, all eyes are now on the Government's plans to exit the level 5 lockdown which began five weeks ago.

While daily case numbers have been falling, fear has been sounded that they will not be down at the 100 per day which NPHET hoped for at the beginning of the lockdown.

However, there is still hope that we can at least move to level 3 for much of December. Here is what we know so far.

When will announcements be made?

The Cabinet will meet as usual on Tuesday before NPHET meets on Wednesday. It is likely that the announcement will be made on Thursday instead of Friday partly, it is believed, to avoid a clash with The Late Late Toy Show.

What is the Government's plan?

The Government, and Taoiseach Micheál Martin in particular, are said to be keen to "give some hope" by offering people as close to a normal Christmas as possible. Mr Martin has said it remains the Government intention to exit level 5 at the end of the month. Little has suggested a  moved from that objective. In government circles, sources say that there is a "keen awareness" that the retail sector has complied with closures and enhanced safety measures throughout the year and that not opening in December would "cripple" many.

To counter this, there is likely to be a swift reopening of non-essential stores from Tuesday, along with a provision to allow for longer opening hours as long as numbers and queues are policed.

Who will I be able to visit at Christmas?

Many within the Government are hoping that the week of Christmas could see Level 3 travel and home visit restrictions lifted. People would be allowed to move around the country but would be asked to limit this to one day where possible. This would, in essence, allow people to have a regular Christmas within family homes.

This idea is still "very much down to the numbers", however. Other plans involve increasing the number of households which are allowed to mix to three for Christmas Day if numbers remain high or one other household in a worst-case scenario.

The Taoiseach has said that these figures will not be policed, saying that "gardaí will not be knocking on your door" during the Christmas period. Sources say the Government is "very much relying on common sense".

What about pubs and restaurants?

The bad news is that wet pubs are unlikely to open at all this year. They are seen as too risky a setting for containing the spread of the virus. While the Taoiseach refused to be drawn on the reopening of wet pubs or restaurants on Monday, he did say that gatherings where alcohol was present in autumn contributed to the spread of the virus throughout the season.

For restaurants and pubs which serve food, they will be allowed reopen if the daily cases hit the low 200s or thereabouts. However, there is expected to be much stricter enforcement of the rules around what constitutes a food business, with the presence of a working kitchen one thing being considered.

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