IRELAND'S leading World Health Organization (WHO) official has suggested that people wear face masks during family get-togethers at Christmas to combat any potential spread of Covid-19.
Dr Michael J Ryan, one of Ireland's most senior infectious diseases expert, says that there are a number of "small choices" we can all make to keep everybody in our homes over the festive period safe.
While speaking ahead of a virtual ceremony where he will receive The Bar of Ireland Human Rights Award for 2020, Dr Ryan suggested that wearing masks while at a family get-together could potential make a real difference.
"In reality if you have a highly vulnerable person in the house and you are coming from a place where you think you might be exposed, there are other options. Wearing a mask yourself," he said.
"If you believe you are not infected but could be a risk to my parent to my parent or my brother or sister who has a physical disability or an underlying condition, then maybe I should wear the mask.
"Maybe I should wash my hands three times and hour and I should be very careful that I am the potential person who could bring this disease into the house."
Dr Ryan also encouraged people not to cram into one room over Christmas, encouraging people to get out of the house and go for walks as much as they can.
"You can peel the potatoes and the carrots in another room while someone prepared food in the kitchen," he said.
"I am sorry to be simplistic but these are the small choices we make. The game of margins. What are the margins here for exposure?
"So maybe rather than all sitting around after the dinner, twelve people in a room all watching the same TV with the windows closed, maybe people go out for a walk, get outside and have that discussion in a different environment."
He also stressed that students and young people returning home for the holidays should "understand their responsibilities to reduce those risks to those older individuals or those with underlying conditions".
"If I am a student and I come home for Christmas and I have been mixing with lots of young people in an area where the virus is, then I really, really need to think about where I sleep, where I go to the bathroom.
"Should I be in the small kitchen helping mum prepare the Christmas dinner or should I be doing what all young people prefer to be doing, going out for a walk and not participating in the process."