Christmas gatherings in Ireland at risk as NPHET meets to review 'relaxation period' amid surge in Covid cases
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Christmas gatherings in Ireland at risk as NPHET meets to review 'relaxation period' amid surge in Covid cases

FAMILY gatherings this Christmas could be on the chopping block due to a recent surge in Covid-19 cases.

Health officials are to review Ireland's impending 'relaxation period', which is due to begin on Friday.

The country is set to lift restrictions on in order to allow families to mix for the holidays.

Travel restrictions will be temporarily eased and up to three households will be allowed to meet indoors from tomorrow until just after Christmas.

But a concerning rise in Covid-19 cases means that the easing of restrictions is now under review, and could be scrapped altogether, which would wreak havoc with thousands of families' Christmas plans.

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The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is meeting this morning to discuss tomorrow's lifting of restrictions, but it's understood that they'll be reviewing the relaxation period too.

Last night, 431 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed, as well as six more deaths, and Ireland's Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan described the situation as "very concerning".

Dr Holohan noted that the potential dangers of younger people coming home and mixing with older generations over the festive period.

Dr Tony Holohan has warned that Ireland’s Covid-19 numbers are moving in the wrong direction, as daily cases rise over 400 ahead of tomorrow’s easing of inter-county travel restrictions ends.

"We are seeing significant and concerning indicators that this disease is moving in the wrong direction," Holohan said.

"Recent international experience has demonstrated just how quickly this disease can get out of control.

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"These trends are all the more worrying because of the delicate and precarious situation we are in. As a country, we are heading into a period of potential widespread inter-household and inter-generational mixing.

"This is an ideal opportunity for the virus to spread and impact on those most vulnerable to its severest effects."

Former HSE director-general Tony O'Brien says he thinks that the Christmas relaxation period needs to be reviewed in light of the recent surge in case numbers.

"First of all I think the chief medical officer was right to express those concerns, yesterday's figures were concerning," he said.

"I think it's therefore necessary for Government to consider whether the proposed opening up for the Christmas period, and for the length of time intended over the Christmas period, is still a safe and reasonable thing to do.

"Measures do need to be taken to contain the growth in Covid spread."