The plan is for the next six months so Christmas occurs right in the middle.
TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said the government “did not discuss Christmas” when agreeing the new Covid-19 plan, but acknowledged that it will be “challenging” time for people.
Martin today announced the government’s five-level plan for ‘Living with Covid-19′ over the next six months, effectively until March 2021.
The plan sets out five different levels of restrictions that can be in place in different counties depending on the levels of Covid-19 in each area.
Level 1 will mean the least severe of the restrictions with Level 5 the most serious.
Each of the levels contain restrictions on social and family gatherings that will mean Christmas socialising will be different than in pre-Covid years.
Home visits (including gardens)
Under the least severe level (Level One), visitors to private home are limited to up to 10 people from three households.
These restrictions get progressively more strict and under Level Two this is limited to just six visitors to a home. These visitors can be from either two or three other households depending on on the prevailing public health advice.
All counties in Ireland are currently at Level Two restrictions but additional measures are in place in Dublin that restrict household visits further.
Under Level 3, home visits are limited to just one household visiting another household.
Under Levels 4 and 5 there are to be no social visits to private homes, with the government’s framework stating: ‘No visitors’.
Family gatherings outside the home
While most Christmas Day gatherings take place in homes, social gatherings are also common in other locations such as in restaurants.
Under the government’s plan there are restrictions on how these could take place.
Under Level One, members of different households can meet in these settings up to 50 people as long as the industry guidance is being followed.
Under Level Two this reduces dramatically to 6 people indoors or 15 outdoors from 1, 2 or 3 other households.
Under Levels 3, 4 and 5 there should be no social/family gatherings in settings outside homes
Christmas religious services
There are specific provisions within the plan for the attendance at religious services, such as Christmas Mass.
Under Levels 1 and 2 services can proceed with up to 50 worshippers in attendance.
Under Levels 3, 4 and 5 there are to be no worshippers present. The framework says that services can be broadcast or streamed under these three levels but that churches and other places of worship can remain open for private prayer.
There are separate exemptions for weddings and funerals.
The Christmas period is also noteworthy for people across Ireland travelling to different areas to visit loved ones.
Under the new roadmap, there are no restrictions on domestic travel under Levels 1 and 2.
Under Levels 3 and 4 people are asked to stay in their county except for essential reasons, while under Level 5 people are asked to stay at home.
Foreign travel into and out of Ireland is to be dealt with separately as part of an EU-led plan.
The Taoiseach was specifically asked this morning whether there would be an exemption from the restrictions for the Christmas period, but he said “individual events” within the forthcoming six months were not considered.
“In relation to Christmas, this is a six month plan. This is the plan that applies, we will see obviously how we progress over the next three months,” Martin said.
And I think if we all work collectively and together as a people we can get the numbers down and control the virus. And then we’ll see what will happen in that scenario. But it’s a six month plan. And we want to bring clarity over that six month period more broadly speaking. So we didn’t discuss Christmas today, we discussed the preparation of this plan in terms over the six month framework.
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“This framework for many people will be challenging in terms of their personal relationships and engagement with people and other households,” Martin added.
Asked again whether an exemption would be in place for Christmas, the Taoiseach said this wasn’t discussed by Cabinet.
“There are limits here, and I would acknowledge that in terms of the numbers of visitors to your house and so on. And that has implications for that period as well.
“As of now this is the plan for the six months. We haven’t discussed individual events in each of those months specifically in the way that the question might suggest.”