Christmas visits to family a ‘dangerous thing to do’, warns Dr Gabriel Scally

A further 243 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the State. Seven further deaths were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Saturday.
Earlier, epidemologist Dr Gabriel Scally responded to the lifting of Government restrictions on households meeting up to state that visiting relatives at Christmas time is a dangerous thing to do.
Dr Scally called on the public to forego meeting up with their families while the vaccine is on the horizon and he said he would not be meeting his own extended family.
He warned that, as a result of Christmas meet-ups, I fear that in January and in February we may be burying some of those friends and relations. Thats the cruel truth of this virus. It is desperately dangerous and we mustnt let it surge back again.
On Friday, the Government announced plans to move the country from the Level 5 restrictions it was placed under six weeks ago to a modified version of Level 3 under the Governments plan for living with the virus. Some changes will come into effect from December 1st allowing non-essential retail, places of worship and cultural institutions to reopen. Restaraunts and gastro pubs will be allowed to reopen from December 4th.
Under a planned third phase of the staggered reopening beginning on Decemer 18th, restrictions on household visits and travel between counties are to be eased for a period of three weeks, to allow family and friends to celebrate the holiday together.
This phase will allow households to mix with up to two other households. People will be allowed to travel outside their county from December 18th for three weeks until January 6th.
Dr Scally said the virus is still dangerous and cases are still at far too high a level and therefore he stated the Government had gone too far in opening up the country in the run up to Christmas.
There is a temptation when you have done well to take your foot off the brake, but the virus is still so infectious and dangerous that it could just accelerate away again.
Why would anyone really want to risk going to social gatherings or large family gatherings at this time?
This is not the time to do it. This is the time to showing your love for your friends and family by keeping them safe.
Dr Scally also expressed doubts about whether places of worship should be operating at this time in the run up to Christmas.
Its not very long to go before things can loosen up post-vaccination, he said.
Dr Scally said the situation in Northern Ireland at present is extraordinarily bad as a result of not having an effective contact tracing and testing service in place.
He told the Saturday with Katie Hannon programme on RTÉ Radio 1 that he feared a spillover and that the only way forward is an all-island approach to Covid-19.
He stated it would be difficult to have mandatory mask wearing in outdoor settings, but that they should be advisory.
It should be part of the social norm. This advice is coming from the experience of other countries like Asia where mask wearing has become the norm, he said.
It is a symbol of respect for other people that you shouldnt give the virus to other people if you have it.
Speaking on the same programme, the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) chief executive Padraig Cribben challenged Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to produce the evidence suggesting that so-called wet pubs were too dangerous to open.
What we are relying on is circumstantial not empirical evidence. It is not good enough in a situation where we dont have the evidence to tell 3,500 business that you cant open, he said.
There are 3,500 pubs with 25,000 staff who will not get their jobs back, he stressed and also hundreds of thousands of customers who will not have a social outlet this Christmas.
He said the message from the Government was that it did not trust people.
We are going to have a large number of communities that will be bereft of any place to socialise over the Christmas period, he said.