Last-minute Christmas shoppers urged to stay safe

People out doing last-minute Christmas shopping have been urged to stay safe and follow Covid-19 rules.

The Assistant Secretary General at the Department of An Taoiseach Liz Canavan said shoppers needed to be mindful of staff and other shoppers and need to keep their distance.

She said many shops had extended opening hours and urged people to shop during off-peak times.

Ms Canavan reminded people to wear face coverings in shops and on busy streets.

People out doing last-minute Christmas shopping are urged to stay safe, and follow #Covid19 rules |

— RTÉ News (@rtenews) December 18, 2020

At a Government briefing, she also said that as people plan for next week, they need to make sure that everyone was comfortable about being together.

She advised that gatherings for Christmas should be kept small in numbers and short in duration.

Even though restrictions are easing today for the festive period, she said, people have to keep the virus under control.

"From now on, every decision we take to meet somebody could have consequences, either for ourselves, or for those we intend to mark Christmas with," she said.

The number of Covid-19 cases being seen in recent days shows "that we could be moving past the tipping point", she added.

'To say we're all tired of restrictions is an understatement', Assistant Secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach Liz Canavan says, but urges people to continue the hard work with #Covid19 trends worsening |

— RTÉ News (@rtenews) December 18, 2020

Ms Canavan said the easing of restrictions was happening against the backdrop of a worsening picture with the virus and said "we have to respond to that".

She added that the Government would consider the advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team, "and there will be decisions and announcement about what happens after Christmas".

The 'R' number of the virus is now between 1.1 and 1.3, which means at least one other person will become infected by someone with Covid-19.

On Christmas, Liz Canavan urges people to protect the vulnerable, and to check in again to make sure anyone you plan to see is still comfortable with the arrangements given rising #Covid19 numbers |

— RTÉ News (@rtenews) December 18, 2020

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Ms Canavan urged people to stay the course and adhere to public health measures, given what is happening across Europe and in Northern Ireland. 

"We have worked so hard to get to this point. To say we're all tired of restrictions, is an understatement. But we have seen what is happening with the virus around Europe, and even on this island in the north.

"Your hard work has so far meant we have kept the virus under control to a great extent, but we want to make sure that remains the case. The numbers we're seeing now indicate that we could be moving past the tipping point. We have to respond to that, as we have done previously."

From today, inter-county travel is permitted until 6 January and three households are allowed to gather.

However, the Government are likely to look at bringing forward the tightening of Covid-19 restrictions to 28, 29 or 30 December due to the recent rise in case numbers.

Ms Canavan said statistics show that traffic volumes are up 3% this week, compared to last week, and in particular around shopping centres traffic volumes rose by 2%.

She said this was expected in the run up to Christmas.

Christmas Social Welfare and Covid payments

In relation to weekly social welfare payments, she said people will get their payment as usual next week commencing Monday, 21 December, but will also receive an advance payment for the following week.

She said the Pandemic Unemployment Payment would be made next Tuesday, 22 December, and this will include the payment due on 29 December. Normal weekly payment arrangements will resume on the week beginning 4 January.

She said up to last Tuesday, 15 December, approximately 306,000 people received the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, which is down 42,000 on last week's figures.

Many of these people have returned to work sectors closed during Level 5 restrictions, she said.

There are currently 41,000 employers registered with Revenue for the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme. To date, a total of over €1 billion in subsidies has been paid to 39,500 employers.

Today, 15,700 businesses have registered 18,100 premises for the Covid restriction support scheme with Revenue, she said.

Ms Canavan said the value of Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) claims submitted today is over €115 million in respect to 15,600 premises and 114 million of this has already been processed by revenue for payment.


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