People across the region are being asked to think carefully about the number of people they see in the run-up to Christmas Day.

Dr Breda Smyth, Director of Public Health in the West, and Straide native, says it’s vitally important that everyone limits the number of interactions with others.

Thanksgiving in the US and a similar family celebration in the Netherlands (Sinterklaas), indicate that  one day of mixing with older loved ones can given rise to increased number of hospitalisations and deaths.

We can prevent this, she says, by ensuring we are not carrying the virus and that we have reduced our contacts in thedays leading up to Christmas Day.

 The latest national data published last night highlights that the number of cases is increasing more rapidly than had been anticipated. This increase in cases is particularly worrying in the context of inter-generational mixing over the Christmas period. We have seen the 7-day incidence rate for people aged 19-44 more than double since 11 December from 106 per 100,000 population to 217 per 100,000.

If people are meeting on Christmas Day there are a number of important measures that you should try to follow:

 Encourage guests to use hand sanitiser or to wash their hands when they arrive at your home and repeat this hourly over the course of the day:

        Avoid hugs, kisses and handshakes as people arrive.

        Everyone must wear a mask, including hosts.

        Don’t share items like crockery and glass ware. Don’t share food and avoid buffet style set ups.

        Keep the number of people in the kitchen to a minimum, and wear masks when preparing and serving food.

        The risk of transmission increases when we take our mask off to eat. Therefore, try to seat households together and spaced from other households.

        Allow extra space at the dinner table - extra distance between guests will make sure everyone is comfortable and safe.

        Keep your home and spaces where people are gathering ventilated, keep windows and doors open where possible.

        Incorporate a walk together into the day and try to spend some time outside.

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