A Government minister has warned that there will be no '12 pubs of Christmas' this holiday season.
The current coronavirus lockdown is due to end on December 1st; however, it remains unclear what level of restrictions the country will then face for the holidays.
Yesterday, the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan raised fears Christmas homecomings would not be permitted this year – noting that the risks around international travel are still “very substantial.”
On The Hard Shoulder this evening however, the Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said he is still hopeful people will be able to fly home from abroad this Christmas.
He warned however that there will be no ‘packed gatherings’ after they arrive.
“It is unlikely any of us are going to be doing the 12 pubs of Christmas,” he said. “I don’t say that in a flippant way but I think we all know that packed gatherings and the likes are not likely to be on the scene.
“But that doesn’t mean we can’t still have a Christmas where we can get together with family and get together with friends and where we can socialise.
“But we are going to have to do it in a careful way and I think people get that in this country at this stage.
“Obviously, we will have to provide clarity, as a Government, on exactly what that looks like, based on public health advice, when we get through this Level Five.”
He said the greater the progress we make in getting numbers down between now and December, the greater the chances of meting up with family and friends over the holidays.
“The more progress we can make over the next couple of weeks, the greater chance that gives us all of having an enjoyable Christmas – but also the greater chance it gives our economy in terms of giving our local businesses the chance of benefitting from some of that Christmas build-up after the extraordinarily difficult year they have had.”
Minister Harris said the Government has “not made a decision” about Christmas homecomings – despite Dr Holohan’s comments last night.
He said he is confident that we can “make good progress” on opting into the new European Traffic Light system for international travel between now and the holidays to allow people to safely return home.
He said the system will see people getting tested in the country they are flying from before travelling to Ireland.
“You will be aware of the fact that we have decided to opt in to the European Travel Network and as part of that, there will be an understanding that you would actually accept a test somebody might have in the country they have left from,” he said.
“You might be able to fly from Germany, get a test there, test negative and then fly to Ireland so there are other ways of doing this.”
He said he hoped to see a rapid testing system introduced at Irish airports in the longer term.
Minister Harris said the overarching message from Government is that: “We can all help ensure there is a Christmas we can all enjoy and that there are increased opportunities for people to travel here at Christmas by, obviously, trying to get the virus as low as we can between now and then.”