A leading GP has warned against organising 'unofficial' work Christmas parties in the lead-up to the festive season.
With the vast majority of the population now vaccinated and many restrictions now eased, many people are likely looking towards having a more traditional Christmas this year - including the potential return of the office party.
However, the Christmas planning this year comes amid very high levels of COVID-19 in the community.
NPHET has advised people to 'dial back' their socialising and 'ration' their activities.
Speaking on RTÉ yesterday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly suggested it's still too early to tell people whether they can have a Christmas party during December.
Dr Denis McCauley - GP and chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP Committee - told The Pat Kenny Show it's "probably better not to" have a big office event this year.
However, he suggested it's important to have a 'planned and controlled' event if you are determined to have a Christmas party.
He said: “Nobody likes to cancel Christmas, and no politician would like to cancel Christmas. But I’m a doctor - I have no such issues.
“We have been told by NPHET to try to limit our amount of socialising, to a certain extent. If it’s a choice between having Christmas with your family and an office party… which one would you choose? I think most of us would choose our family.
"If you’re going to have an unofficial Christmas party, don’t. If you’re determined to have a party of some form, have it in a controlled environment where all the COVID measures are there.
"I would rather have a controlled Christmas party than an uncontrolled one."
Dr McCauley stressed that people can still have an enjoyable night in a restaurant or pub that is following the COVID-19 protocols, and that it's "OK to say no" if you don't feel comfortable attending a work event this year.
He stressed that COVID-19 digital certs are the 'number one thing' to help ensure a controlled environment.
Pointing to recent ESRI research, he said it's "not acceptable" to hear that one-in-three people aren't having their certs checked when entering a pub or restaurant.
He said he'd "hate" to see Ireland in the same situation as Northern Ireland, which has seen very high case numbers after reopening without the use of vaccine certs.
In terms of advice for anyone planning a work event next month, he noted: "I’m being Scrooge here… but if you’re going to have a Christmas party... do it well. Don’t have an unofficial one."