WHAT WILL happen if Ireland is under Level 4 restrictions this Christmas?
Right now, most of the country remains under 'enhanced' Level 3 restrictions, which is Level 3 in the government's Living With Covid Plan in addition to a ban on visiting people's homes.
Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan, however, have been moved to Level 4 following a spike in cases in Northern Ireland and some surrounding border counties.
Cases continue to rise across Ireland, and counties could be moved to higher levels if the number of cases does not stabilise or drop.
So, what happens we are under Level 4 restrictions this Christmas?
What will happen this Christmas under the current coronavirus restrictions?
Visiting family in Ireland
Under Level 4-- and 'enhanced' Level 3-- household visits are banned; this includes visits held in someone's garden and other public settings such as a park. This means, should we be under Level 4 restrictions, Christmas dinner will be very different for many of us.
Under Level 4, no organised indoor or outdoor gatherings can take place-- this includes audiences at conferences, training events and sports events.
A maximum of 15 people can attend organised outdoor events. This means Christmas markets might go ahead, but with pre-booked timeslots with just 15 people allowed in at one time.
Attending Christmas Day or Midnight Mass is the most important Christmas traditions for countless people in Ireland-- but will it take place in person or will we be watching online?
Under Level 3 and Level 4 of the Government's Living With Covid Plan, religious services must move online, so if the restrictions continue we could be watching our local Christmas Day mass on Facebook or Youtube. Churches and other places of worship will remain pen for private prayer, however.
12 Pubs of Christmas
A relatively new, but quickly popular tradition, the 12 Pubs of Christmas sees groups of friends travelling to 12 different pubs in one night, with different rules-- such as no swearing allowed-- in place for each one.
Should your county remain in Level 3 or be in Level 4 restrictions, all pubs will only be able to serve up to 15 customers in total, and only outdoors-- which won't be fun in the middle of winter.
Essential retail outlets have remained open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and this will continue even if Ireland goes into lockdown again.
Under Level 4 however, unless the premises is largely outdoors-- such as gardening centres-- non-essential retail shouldclose.
This includes toy shops, jewellery stores, hairdressers and barbers.
The outlook for Level 4 restrictions in Ireland this Christmas looks bleak, but it isn't inevitable-- politicians and health experts have said we can have a relatively normal Christmas if we tackle the virus numbers now.
What have politicians said about Christmas in Ireland this year?
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the Government hope to allow people to travel abroad to see family this Christmas.
He acknowledged that Ireland has some of the strictest coronavirus rules in Europe, but said if we want to live with the virus long-term that means allowing more air travel and giving more travel options for the public.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he would love to see the virus suppressed so that family members will be able to visit their loved ones in nursing homes this Christmas.
He said restrictions were "heartbreaking" for residents, family, and staff and said by Christmas the hoped " the most liberal visiting regime that we could have safely is brought in."
What have health experts said about Christmas in Ireland in 2020?
Former Acting Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has no plans to prevent public celebrations of Christmas, but admitted that final decisions would likely be made closer to the time.
He said, "The single greatest predictor of how safe it will be to participate in activities, either at Halloween or Christmas or any other time, is the underlying circulating levels of the virus."
Professor Pete Lunn, head of the Economic and Social Research Institute's Behavioural Research Unit said we should "Plan for the milestones such as ... Christmas and New Year's Eve within a Covid-19 environment.
"Be innovative in how you can celebrate safely with loved ones."
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said the country could get through Christmas "very well" if cases drop to around 50 cases per day by mid-December.
"It's in our minds, we haven't had an expressed conversation about Christmas, but each of us is conscious," Dr Holohan said. "We all live in this country, we know what it's like here."
He warned that the R number could rise during Christmas as people will want to gather with friends and family, and acknowledged that as a country, we may "not be as adherent to some of the rules as we should be".
"Christmas will be a challenging time, what we have to try and ensure is we get the disease as low as possible before that," he concluded.
Professor Philip Nolan agreed that "we can still save Christmas, I presume, if we do the right thing over the next three weeks".
It is the responsibility of each individual to follow public health advice and Level 3 restrictions in order to get the numbers of cases to stabilise and subsequently drop, he advised.