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Cross-border shopping trips could cause cases of Covid here to surge

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Grafton Stree was very quiet yesterday as lockdown has shut all but essential retailers

Grafton Stree was very quiet yesterday as lockdown has shut all but essential retailers

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Grafton Stree was very quiet yesterday as lockdown has shut all but essential retailers

A spike in cross-border pre-Christmas shopping trips could be on the way as Northern Ireland moves to signal it is open for business.

A four-week circuit breaker lockdown in the North, imposed to cut Covid cases, is due to end early tomorrow.

However, Stormont talks last night on whether the measures would be relaxed or extended for another week remained in stalemate.

With three more weeks of the Republic's strict Level 5 lockdown to go, there is concern that a trail of shoppers will head across the border as uncertainty remains over how much business will resume here from early next month.

It comes as the daily toll of Covid-19 in the Republic continued to show falling numbers, with 362 cases nationally yesterday, but there were two more deaths.

Donegal continues to lag behind. Its 14-day incidence rate - the tally of the number of people diagnosed in a fortnight with the illness - rose yesterday to 300.9 per 100,000 of population.

This was up from 284.6 per 100,000 the day before.

Lifford GP Dr Martin Coyne warned the county will have a real problem if the restrictions in Northern Ireland are relaxed.

Donegal will suffer a "spill-over effect", he added.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the aim was to return to Level 3 restrictions by early next month, but he also suggested the Government could "moderate" some of its measures for certain sectors.

Under Level 3, there can be visitors to a home from one other household while pubs and cafes are restricted to takeaway and outdoor service.

People would need to stay in their own county except for essential purposes. Religious services are online.

However, the Taoiseach has come under pressure to move the country into Level 2 when it comes out of lockdown on December 1.

This would allow people to travel between counties and have more visitors in their homes over Christmas.

At a Fianna Fáil parliament- ary party meeting last night, TDs and senators called for Level 2 restrictions.

Sacrifices

TD Cormac Devlin said people have made "tremendous sacrifices" during the Level 5 lockdown and added that, subject to public health advice, the Government should be "at Level 2 with tweaks to allow people to have some sort of Christmas".

Dublin south-west TD John Lahart told the meeting that if six weeks of "sacrifice" under Level 5 restrictions was foll-owed by Level 3 rules being imposed, it would be "hugely demoralising".

Fianna Fáil senator Malcolm Byrne said there should be emphasis on personal responsibility at Christmas, but if the regulations are too restrictive then people will flout them.

The number of Covid patients in hospital was stable at 280 yesterday, with 38 in intensive care.

"The profile of the disease is improving and, while this is a positive trend, it does not mean it is time to take a step back from our adherence to public health guidelines," Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said yesterday.

"I urge everyone to redouble their efforts, try to have fewer close contacts this week than you did last week, continue to social distance and follow the other vitally important public health guidelines.

"I also want to thank those who have self-isolated after receiving a positive Covid-19 test result or having been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case.

"Self-isolating is a vital measure in our efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 and it is essential that all those asked to self-isolate continue to do so."

A new report yesterday said some people who get the virus can be reinfected

It means a Covid-19 vaccine would need to have a booster shot.

The review by the Health Information and Quality Authority said reinfection is rare, but it was confirmed in 14 patients outside of Ireland.

The immune response after recovery extends for at least two to six months.

However, the risk of reinfection means people who had the virus cannot let their guard down said. The report also said this may mean a new Covid vaccine will require a second jab.


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