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Republic considers plans to ease restrictions on household visits and travel in time for Christmas festivities

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A driver is tested at the new RocDoc drive-thru Covid-19 testing facility at Dublin Airport yesterday

A driver is tested at the new RocDoc drive-thru Covid-19 testing facility at Dublin Airport yesterday

A driver is tested at the new RocDoc drive-thru Covid-19 testing facility at Dublin Airport yesterday

Limits on household visits in the Republic would be lifted for Christmas week under plans being considered by the Irish Government.

The country has planned to come out of its current lockdown on December 1 - just four days after Northern Ireland enters its new 'circuit-breaker'.

Several senior figures including ministers and officials yesterday said there are no plans to extend the lockdown beyond that date.

Inter-county travel in the south will also be permitted for a brief period to allow people go home to see friends and family for Christmas.

However, the public will be asked to limit their interactions to one main gathering during the holiday period to help stop the spread of the virus.

"We want people to enjoy a safe Christmas but we will be asking them not to go to lots of different households," a senior Dublin source said.

The country will be put under Level 3 restrictions once the second national lockdown comes to an end on December 1.

It is expected different grades of Level 3 will then be introduced throughout the month depending on the rate of new infections.

A number of options are being considered by the Government and there is serious concern about managing expectations ahead of the lockdown ending. However, central to the plans is a major easing of restrictions in the last week of December.

This advice issued closer to Christmas week will ask people to exercise caution and follow social distancing rules during the festive period. The final advice will depend on infection rates once the lockdown ends.

However, there are plans to lift the ban on household visits for the festive week and there will be no restrictions on the number of people allowed in a household.

People will be asked to choose one day for a significant family gathering to celebrate Christmas. This will not necessarily have to be December 25 but will have to be during the short period when restrictions are loosened.

A Government source said: "Nearer to Christmas the restrictions on household visits may be loosened and we may not put numbers on how many you can have in your house.

"You would pick your day when you want to have your family gathering and you work around that."

The source said people will be urged to follow the public guidelines on social distancing and asked not to hug family members especially if they are older or vulnerable.

Meanwhile, MSPs yesterday voted to support new Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland, including tougher measures in 11 council areas and a travel ban for the worst-hit areas.

On Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that areas of west and central Scotland would be moved from Level 3 to Level 4 from today for three weeks, which would see non-essential shops and hospitality businesses close along with gyms and beauty salons.

Guidance which asked Scots to avoid travel into or out of Level 3 or Level 4 areas will also be put into law, with a £60 fine levied against those who break the rules.

Belfast Telegraph


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