PEOPLE of Ireland have been warned to prepare for a "challenging" Christmas period due to coronavirus.
A leading doctor from the World Health Organization (WHO) has encouraged Irish people to make peace with the idea of living with virus "for several years" and that the winter months will prove particularly tough.
Dr Margaret Harris speculated that wearing face masks indoors over the festive period could become a reality unless the rate of infection drops significantly.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Dr Harris stressed that winter is "going to be more challenging, for several reasons."
"Not simply because it's going to be a lot harder to physically distance - so we're going to have to do other things like look at mask wearing indoors - but also because the incidence of other illnesses always rise during the winter," she added.
"Some down to the cold weather, some down to other viruses arising, so the hospitals themselves are always much busier in winter.
"So if we see a rise in transmission because we're all crowding together indoors, that puts a double burden on the health system, and they're already overburdened."
Dr Harris went on to warn young people that they might not be as impervious to the virus as first thought, with health officials reporting that many people don't recover fully from infection, even if the illness itself isn't that bad.
"So again, we're saying it's not good enough to think it will be alright to get infected; it's not alright to get infected," she said.