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Health Minister | Avoid a festive free for all for all our sakes

Health Minister Robin Swann has warned that a “festive free for all” would be catastrophic for many individuals and families - as well as our hospitals.

The Minister said that while some Covid-19 restrictions are being eased from Friday morning, others remain firmly in place.

Let’s remember households are not allowed to mix indoors in private homes, except where strict exemptions apply. This ongoing restriction on household mixing runs to December 23, when it will be partially eased for a five-day period for Christmas.

While hospitality businesses are reopening from Friday - except for licensed premises that don’t sell food - detailed restrictions will be in place for all hospitality outlets.

This includes a maximum of six adults from no more than two households being allowed at a table. Closing time will be 11pm at the latest.

All hospitality businesses venues will be required to collect the details of each customer to assist with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

Customer details will include: name and telephone number of each person aged 16 years or above; date and time of arrival; and number of individuals from each household visiting the premises at that time.

The Health Minister said: “While we all want to enjoy the festive season, we must never get complacent about the Covid-19 threat. The virus is still circulating in our community and is still claiming lives.

“Each of us has choices to make about our actions. If there is a festive free for all with public health advice ignored, then it will cost lives and place unbearable pressure on our hospitals. We must avoid these catastrophic consequences.

“We all have to weigh up our choices carefully, bearing in mind that every situation where people meet up will involve a risk of the virus being spread.

“We have to keep doing the basics - reducing our contacts, keeping our distance from others, wearing a face covering and washing our hands.

“Be aware of particularly risky settings – crowded indoor settings with poor ventilation where social distancing is difficult or impossible to maintain.

“If a shop, pub, café or household falls into that category and looks too busy, walk away. Just because we can do something does not mean we have to.

“Our actions will dictate the timing and scale of any further restrictions that may be needed in coming weeks.”

Full details of the restrictions in place from December 11 and the Christmas household regulations are available from NI Direct.