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Homecomings at Dublin Airport for Christmas may now be under threat

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Scene of Christmas past – Lyndsey Porter is welcomed home for Christmas by her mum, Myra and aunt Rhona. Special moments like this are unlikely to be repeated this year

Scene of Christmas past – Lyndsey Porter is welcomed home for Christmas by her mum, Myra and aunt Rhona. Special moments like this are unlikely to be repeated this year

Damien Eagers / INM

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer

CollinsPhotoAgency

Scene of Christmas past – Lyndsey Porter is welcomed home for Christmas by her mum, Myra and aunt Rhona. Special moments like this are unlikely to be repeated this year

Traditional heartwarming Christmas homecomings at Dublin Airport may now be in doubt due to coronavirus.

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan has warned that the Covid-19 risks around international travel are still "very substantial" at this time.

Dr Holohan also cautioned parents about the risks of children from different families getting together for Halloween parties.

Asked about people travelling home for Christmas and families reuniting for the festive season, he said no specific consideration by his team has yet been given to it.

"Our advice is that the risk of non-essential travel outside this country is simply too high at this moment," said Dr Holohan.

The number of travel-related Covid-19 cases here is now very low and the Government has committed to entering into a EU traffic light system for travelling within Europe.

Possible

But the details around how it will operate here, particularly in relation to testing, remain unclear.

Asked about Halloween parties, he said "these things are not going to be possible this year."

It comes as the Dublin Airport Authority is today expected to raise the issue of Christmas homecomings at the Oireachtas Transport Committee.

"We want to welcome our loved-ones safely and allow those living here who have not seen families overseas to be reunited," it said in a call for a pre-departure testing regime.

There were five more deaths from Covid-19 yesterday and an additional 720 cases, indicating some control over the spread of the virus is now returning after last week when daily cases totalled more than 1,000.

Dr Holohan said, however, that it is too early to say that "we have turned a corner".

"We definitely cannot draw a conclusion that there is a trend from the fewer number of cases," he said.

So far this month there have been 79 Covid-related deaths. Of these 32 were among nursing home residents.

This compares to 35 deaths in September and five in August.

Of yesterday's new cases some 228 were in Dublin, 130 in Cork, 47 in Galway, 31 in Meath, 27 in Limerick. The remaining 257 cases are spread across another 20 counties.

As of 2pm yesterday the number of Covid patients hospitalised slightly fell to 341 of whom 38 are in intensive care.

There were 29 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours but the pattern in the second phase of the virus seems to be a better flow of patients with a significant number being discharged also.

Older patients are still at higher risk of being admitted to hospital.

The highest 14-day incidence rate was in Cavan - where the rate is 962.2 cases per 100,000 of population - but this is falling. It is followed by Meath, Sligo, Westmeath, Galway, Monaghan, Cork and Donegal.

Tipperary, Wicklow and Kilkenny have the lowest rates.

Dr Holohan said the evidence was that Level 3 restrictions were stabilising the spread of Covid-19 when it was implemented but not driving it down.

This is significant because if cases rise to a high level again - once this lockdown is over - it will mean that the most severe restrictions may need to be called on to bring it back under control. Questioned on the test-and-tracing system in the HSE, Dr Holohan claimed it was very robust despite the recent fiasco which led to 2,000 people who were found to have the virus having to do their own tracing.

Concern

Asked about the recent survey showing just 55pc would take a Covid-19 vaccine if available, he said it would be a matter of concern if a significant number of people vulnerable to the virus did not choose to be immunised.

Asked about plans to roll out a vaccine if approved, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said a Covid-19 Immunisation Strategy Group has been convened.

It meets every three weeks. The group is currently developing a Covid-19 immunisation programme plan.

This includes the development of a communications campaign, which will begin before the immunisation programme.


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