Full details of what this relaxation of lockdown might entail will be announced by the Irish government on Friday, but it is likely to include a relaxing of the current travel ban and ban on visiting other households. This would be to allow people to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones.
Irish deputy prime minister, Leo Varadkar, has said that the government hopes to introduce measures similar to those that have been put into place in the UK. There will be some differences, including household visits being allowed “for something closer to two weeks", he said.
It was announced Monday in UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s briefing, that up to three households will be allowed to mix and meet in a five-day window over Christmas. This is between 23 December and 27 December.
In all four nations of the UK, households may form a “Christmas bubble.” Travel restrictions between tiers will also be lifted.
The move has been criticised by government scientific advisor, Prof Andrew Hayward, who has said that the relaxation of rules would be “throwing fuel on the Covid fire.”
Mr Johnson underlined the importance of using "personal judgement" around whether or not to visit vulnerable relatives. He added: “we can't afford to throw caution to the wind."
The Irish government expects lockdown restrictions to return to current levels after the festive period.
Mr Varadkar suggested: “A date would then kick in in January where restrictions would be tightened again, but again that’ll depend on the numbers. We won’t reimpose restrictions just for the sake of it.” He added that it was the government’s aim was to make Christmas day “as normal as possible.”
Mr Varadkar has said he hopes that Ireland won’t need to enter into a full lockdown again, although stressed that “it is not possible to rule that out.”
Restrictions in Ireland are currently to be phased out gradually. The first stage will be the reopening of shops, hairdressers, hotels and museums at the start of next month.
The reopening of “higher risk settings” would be in the next phase. These are thought to include sports settings, restaurants and homes. As yet, no decision has been made on when this might happen.
Mr Varadkar highlighted that he wants to make the rules as simple as possible to avoid confusion. He said: “when you have too many rules it is actually very easy to make a mistake and break the rules without even realising it, especially when they change all the time, or if they vary from place to place.”