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21st Dec 2021

“An event cancelled is better than a life cancelled” says WHO chief

Dave Hanratty

World Health Organisation Christmas advice

“It’s better to cancel now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged the general public to rethink Christmas plans as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 becomes dominant around the world.

“All of us are sick of this pandemic,” said WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in an address on Tuesday.

“All of us want to spend time with friends and family. All of us want to get back to normal. The fastest way to do this is for all of us – leaders and individuals – to make the difficult decisions that must be made to protect ourselves and others.

“In some cases, that will mean cancelling or delaying events,” he continued.

“Just as we have had to cancel the reception we planned to have with you today. But an event cancelled is better than a life cancelled. It’s better to cancel now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later.”

Speaking on Sky News following reports that the UK Government is considering a two-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown ahead of New Year’s Eve, WHO spokesperson Dr Margaret Harris rejected the assertion that the organisation is looking to “cancel” Christmas.

“He was referring to a reception, a get-together we had promised to have with journalists,” Harris explained.

“We’d had to cancel one the year before and we cancelled it this year because it’s not something that we can do safely right now, and that’s the point he was making.

“If you have gatherings that are not going to be safe – change them, delay them, do them later, don’t do them now.”

On Monday evening, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan once more called on the public, particularly younger members of the population who have yet to receive a booster vaccination dose, to cut down on their social contacts.

Holohan was speaking following confirmation from the Department of Health of 4,799 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.

The CMO noted that one in four people in the 16 – 34 age bracket are currently receiving a ‘detected’ result when they avail of a PCR test.

“This high level of disease in young people represents a high risk to those they come into contact with who have yet to be vaccinated or receive their booster,” he said.

“Therefore, if you have not yet received your booster you are best to avoid unnecessary contact with people outside your household.”

Asking the public to make an “exceptional sacrifice” as Christmas Day draws near, Holohan called on people to be extremely careful in their social activities.

“As difficult as it may seem, limiting as much as possible your Christmas to small numbers and very close family will protect them,” he said.

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