By Rebecca Black, PA
A free-for-all approach to Christmas could result in Ireland being plunged into another period of lockdown in January, a Government Minister has warned.
Ireland is due to exit Level 5 restrictions on December 1st, with the Government set to announce plans to move forward within the next number of days.
Pippa Hackett, Minister of State in the Department for Agriculture, ruled out a complete reopening of society for Christmas.
“There is no point indicating to people we are going to open up for two weeks at Christmas because that is just a free-for-all,” she told RTÉ’s The Week In Politics programme.
A free-for-all two-week holiday at Christmas, that will be lockdown after Christmas
“As difficult as it is now to get people to adhere to the regulations, a free-for-all two-week holiday at Christmas, that will be lockdown after Christmas.”
She went on: “We have a week or so now to really buckle down, obey what we have been asked to do.
“Young and old should be really coming together to do this.
“Ultimately we will have to act on the advice from public health and that’s the most important piece.”
The Minister’s comments come as a public health expert warned the Republic faces a third lockdown as soon as January, in a development which could be avoided.
Professor of Health Systems at DCU, Anthony Staines, said the country is likely to still see more than 100 daily cases by December.
Prof Staines said lockdowns were set to continue until key policy changes are made.
Yesterday evening saw four further deaths and 344 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed, with the State surpassing more than 70,000 infections since the outset of the pandemic.
Prof Staines said the current reduction in daily case numbers – down from recent highs of more than 1,000 new infections each day – is a credit to the Irish public.
Public health chiefs have warned the progress in bringing down levels of the virus made during lockdown has stalled and say the next two weeks will be critical.
Intense discussions are expected between Government and Nphet in the coming days around future restrictions.
Coalition party leaders will meet on Monday, in an attempt to formulate a plan to exit the current lockdown and manage the pandemic over the Christmas period.