NPHET member warns of need for “very cautious approach to how alcohol is used” in run-up to Christmas 1 week ago

NPHET member warns of need for “very cautious approach to how alcohol is used” in run-up to Christmas

Scenes of public drinking in Dublin and Cork over the weekend have sparked concern.

A member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has said that Irish people need to have a “very cautious approach to how alcohol is used” in the run-up to Christmas amid fears it will impact on the ability to control the spread of Covid-19.

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Following a gradual reduction in the number of daily cases of Covid-19 since the introduction of Level 5 measures at the end of the last month, the number of daily cases has increased again in recent days.

At the weekend, concerns were expressed following scenes of social gatherings and the consumption of alcohol in public in Dublin and Cork, with Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan saying that such incidents are “putting our collective progress at risk”.

Speaking to Morning Ireland on Monday, Dr Mary Favier, a member of NPHET and a former President of the Irish College of General Practitioners, said that cases of Covid-19 have been rising in recent days because “complacency and fatigue” had set in.

Favier said that people have been “taking their eye off the ball”, something that has been “demoralising” for the many people who have been doing such a good job in observing the Level 5 restrictions and frontline health workers in particular.

Addressing the scenes of public drinking from the weekend, Favier said: ‘One thing Covid has shown us in many other areas, it has unmasked some difficulties we have and one… is our relationship with alcohol, as was evidenced by the drinking scenes on the streets.

“And I've seen those in Cork, they're not just in Dublin.

“I think we need to look very carefully at how that might be done. I was somewhat concerned and taken aback to see that the response to drinking on the street was actually to open the pubs.”

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“I think, as a society, we need to be very cautious about our need to increase the consumption of alcohol because we know how it changes behaviours,” Favier added.

“It all makes us better and more enthusiastic but then we all let down our guard and that's how the virus spreads, when we have let down our guard, so I think we will need to have a very cautious approach to how alcohol is used over the next number of weeks.”

Favier also cautioned against the easing of travel restrictions over the Christmas period, a time when Irish people based abroad would traditionally return home to celebrate the festive season at home with their families.

While accepting how difficult it will be for many families, Favier said the restrictions on travel are appropriate now and, will “unfortunately” also be appropriate at Christmas time.

She urged people to listen to public health advice on travel and that while Christmas can still be celebrated, it will have to be in “some fashion of a new way”.

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You can listen to the conversation in full here.