Travel advice for Christmas to be given at the end of November, says Taoiseach

‘Challenge is making Level 5 work and getting numbers down by the end of November’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: ‘I think we’ve made it very clear in terms of the travel advice and that remains.’ File photograph: The Irish Times

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: ‘I think we’ve made it very clear in terms of the travel advice and that remains.’ File photograph: The Irish Times

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It is “far too early to say what type of Christmas” the country will have, Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned on Thursday, adding that the Government would give travel advice for Christmas at the end of November.

Asked if people would be able to travel home for Christmas from abroad, Mr Martin replied: “The key challenge for us is making Level 5 work and getting numbers down really low by the end of November/start of December.”

“I’d prefer to wait until towards the end of November and we will see how Level 5 works,” he said. “If we get the numbers really down then we can look to manage the next couple of months. The only message now is we want Level 5 to work.”

The Taoiseach added that “it’s just too early to be identifying what will happen around the actual Christmas period itself”.

Asked if he would advise people abroad to hold off from booking flights home, the Taoiseach replied: “In terms of people’s individual situations, I’m not becoming involved. I think we’ve made it very clear in terms of the travel advice and that remains . . . towards the end of November we’ll be in a better position to advise people. We could say something now that would be redundant in a month’s time.”

Mr Martin also said that the country would have to be careful not to allow a situation where the virus immediately begins to spread again after this lockdown ends.

“Caution will prevail,” he said. “Right through the Christmas. It will be a different Christmas. It will be a meaningful Christmas . . . It is going to be very challenging.”

The Taoiseach and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly indicated that hospitals in the Republic could accept Covid patients from the North if hospitals there are overwhelmed.

“We’re working closely with our Northern counterparts,” said Mr Martin. “At any stage if help is required or support is required, both ways, it will be facilitated.”

Mr Donnelly said that while it is too early to reach conclusions about the trends, there were some encouraging signs in recent days.

“The positivity rate is coming down, the critical care beds being used . . . is holding steady, hospitalisations is holding steady,” he said. Mr Donnelly said that “hopefully” the pressure on hospitals for Covid care would ease. That would mean, he added, “there is capacity there to help the North [and] if that is required, we will not be found wanting”.

Staying safe

The two men were speaking at the launch of the Keep Well campaign at Government Buildings on Thursday. This is a new initiative that aims to support people and communities to safeguard their physical and mental health over the coming months.

The initiative has five themes : keeping active; staying connected; switching off and being creative; eating well; and minding your mood. It is being promoted by local authorities and State agencies.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have been faced with many worries and stresses, and all of these have taken their toll. We are learning to live with Covid-19, but still many of us have concerns regarding our own health and wellbeing and that of our loved ones during this time,” said Mr Donnelly.

“At the heart of the Keep Well campaign is helping people . . . to do things that are good for them over the coming months.”

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