02 Oct 2022

Fears Louth Covid-19 cases are set to explode over Christmas

Fears Louth Covid-19 cases are set to explode over Christmas

Fears Louth Covid-19 cases are set to explode over Christmas

A local doctor has warned that if people “stray by even a small degree” from Covid-19 rules over Christmas there will be another complete lockdown again within days after the festive period.

Dr John McKeown, from the Carlingford Medical Centre, told how families must accept it is going to be a “very different Christmas” as cases rise and more restrictions are introduced. Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers could be forced to close from Christmas Eve onwards with intercounty travel banned before New Year's Eve.

This Christmas there will be no big family gatherings on Christmas Day, no embracing relatives and friends that have arrived home for the festive season, no kissing under the mistletoe and no 12 pubs of Christmas.

Dr McKeown said he knows it is difficult to adhere to the rules, especially at this time of year, but urged people to adjust their expectations and celebrate Christmas sensibly in a bid to prevent an explosion in Louth cases.

The GPs Christmas Covid warning comes as there is an alarming surge in confirmed cases in Louth with over 300 identified in the county in the county in the last two weeks. 108 of those cases were recorded between last Thursday and Sunday.

Louth's 14-incidence rate of 235.1 is the second-highest in the country behind Donegal with cases surging nationwide, including 764 cases nationally on Sunday.

Dr McKeown said: “The high rate of confirmed Covid-19 cases for Louth is very concerning given the fact that restrictions have been eased to allow families socialise over Christmas and people allowed gather in households and travel from different parts of the country to do so.

“I would urge people not to socialise outside the guidelines and not to go to house parties.

“There is a real concern that if people don’t stick strictly to the guidelines the rate of Covid-19 in the area will explode.

“If people stray from the current guidelines even by a small degree over Christmas, I believe we will definitely be in Level 5 lockdown again in the new year.

“Now with the shops, hairdressers and gastropubs open people are getting geared up for Christmas and getting their presents bought, but I would appeal to everyone to strictly adhere to the current guidelines.

“There is a certain degree of fatalism as a lot of people believe there is going to be another lockdown in January, and they are just going for it.

“It is very possible we could be heading for Level 5 restrictions again in the new year, but I would urge people not to do anything over Christmas to make the situation even worse.

Dr McKeown said that people must accept that it is going to be a “very different Christmas this year” and “people need to adjust their expectations”.

“Families can still enjoy their Christmas Day together, but they have to minimise social contact”, he said.

“The reality is that there can’t be large family gatherings like other years and some family members will have to spend Christmas Day together in one house and other family members in another.

“I know it is going to be difficult, but people need to follow the guidelines to stop the spread of the virus.

“I would urge families to abide by the rules and celebrate Christmas, but to do so sensibly.”

The Government has advised people to wear masks when preparing and serving Christmas dinner, not to share cutlery, allow extra space between people at the table, to keep windows open and not to sing.

Dr McKeown said many of the measures may feel like strange things to have to do but asked people to do whatever it takes to keep the people they love safe this Christmas.

Dr McKeown also urged people not to go to house parties or get too ‘merry’ in gastropubs and restaurants over the festive season in a bid to try and fight the pandemic.

“I know it has been a really tough year for everyone and people want to socialise, but I would ask them to not to go to house parties or have them in their own homes.

“Parties with large gatherings are the single greatest spreader of Covid-19.

“I would also urge staff and owners of gastropubs and restaurants to ensure they adhere to all the Covid-19 restrictions and make sure social distancing rules and the recommended number of people allowed in their premises are kept to.

“I would also ask them to be mindful of customers getting too merry and control their alcohol intake and make sure no-one drinks too much.

“It is when people have drunk too much that masks start coming off and the hugging starts.

“I know it is hard as people want to greet each other, especially at this time of year, but people must resist hugging, kissing and shaking hands.”

Dr McKeown’s warning comes as the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said last week that Christmas and New Year festivities may have to be curtailed with gastropubs, restaurants and home visits facing an earlier clampdown due to the surge in Covid-19 cases.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has urged the Government to reimpose restrictions on household visits and the hospitality sector from December 28. Cabinet meet today to discuss the recommendations.

In a letter to the Government, Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan’s team said home visits should be reduced to just one other household rather than the current three from three days after Christmas Day and gastropubs and restaurants should close from this date.

However, Dr McKeown said that there is light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine due to be rolled out in the new year.

The GP, who said he has a steady demand for tests at his practice which covers Carlingford, Omeath and Jenkinstown, ordering around three tests a day and six over weekends for his patients, told how he is “very hopeful” about the vaccines.

“Hopefully by late spring, early summer the vaccine will be available to the general population”, he said.

“The feedback I am getting from my patients is that a majority of them are keen to get the vaccine.

“There is some scepticism, but I would urge people to take the vaccine when it is available to them.

“I am confident that all three vaccines are safe and effective.”

Dr McKeown continued: “With the roll out of the vaccine and if everyone adheres to the safety measure guidelines this festive season, we will hopefully be able to enjoy Christmas next year with family, friends and loved ones with the traditional celebrations.”

And children don’t have to worry about getting their presents on Christmas morning as Dr Holohan has confirmed that Santa Claus is coming to town.

Dr Holohan said neither Santa or his reindeer can contract the virus so all children’s presents will be delivered this year.

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