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Christmas like no other as rules on gatherings to remain for 9 months

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A member of the public wearing a mask on a Dublin street

A member of the public wearing a mask on a Dublin street

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

A member of the public wearing a mask on a Dublin street

Strict rules on gatherings in family homes will remain in place for the next nine months - regardless of how low the rate Covid-19 infection is.

With the Government set to announce its five-level plan for living with the virus next week, the Herald can reveal how even in the best case scenario, no more than 10 people from three households will be allowed in a family home.

The new restrictions, aimed at reducing the spread of the virus in homes, will have a significant impact on family gatherings in the coming months, including at Christmas.

However, new details of the draft of the Government's Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery Plan reveal gatherings of up to 100 people will be allowed in controlled indoor settings such as pubs, restaurants and hotels at 'level one'.

Safer

The Government is eager to push people towards holding gatherings in controlled settings rather than in family homes. All pubs will be open at the lowest level of restrictions.

A senior Government source said: "The problem we are having is people are having house parties and garden parties and they are spreading the virus to each other unbeknownst to themselves and it would be safer for them to meet friends in a restaurant where it is more controlled."

Nationally, the country is currently at 'level two' of the new plan, which means the current restrictions on family homes, which allow six people from three households, will remain in place.

In 'level two', up to 50 people will be permitted in controlled indoor settings.

The rules become more strict when it moves into 'level three', where just six from one household are allowed visit another home and controlled indoor events will be banned.

In 'level four', all household visits will be prohibited and the ban on indoor gatherings will remain in place.

The plan will be published on Tuesday, along with an announcement that the Government is dropping its 'Green List' of countries deemed safe for travel in favour of signing up to the EU Commission's traffic light system for European flights.

The new system, based on a colour-coded map produced by the European Centre for Disease Control, will allow for more flights in and out of Ireland.

Meanwhile, nursing home visits in Dublin are to be curtailed and each resident is to be confined to one nominated visitor.

The advice to nursing homes has been issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team amid concerns over the spread of Covid-19.

The new restrictions will come into effect tomorrow.

Until now, residents were allowed visits from four nominated family or friends.

This will now be reduced to one nominated visitor per resident. It is aimed at reducing the risk by cutting down on contacts.

The measures are in place for three weeks.

Nursing Homes Ireland chief Tadhg Daly said there is no restriction on the frequency of the visits but it will be a matter for each nursing home to give guidance to families.

He said there appears to be no increase in clusters in nursing homes in recent weeks.