Christmas travellers expected to triple despite Omicron concerns

Restrictions on large sporting events and hospitality are under consideration, along with warnings about large family gatherings and house parties
Christmas travellers expected to triple despite Omicron concerns

The number of travellers passing through Dublin Airport this Christmas is expected to more than triple compared to last year, despite concerns over the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The busiest day at the airport is expected to be this Sunday, followed by December 23rd.

However, the 850,000 passengers expected to travel in and out of Dublin remains significantly down on 2019, when the figure was almost 1.5 million.

“I think we can expect a busier Christmas influx of people travelling home to reunite with family and friends,” said Kevin Cullinane, group head of communications at daa.

“We’re anticipating about 850,000 people will travel in and out of Dublin Airport this year. That’s still significantly below what it would have been going through pre-Covid in 2019 by about 40 per cent.

“Similarly at Cork, 60,000 passengers are expected between now and the 4th of January. Bearing in mind, last year there was less than 9,000 people in the whole month of December.”

Taoiseach meets EU leaders

It comes as France is to limit tourism and business travel from Britain amid concern over the Omicron variant, as Covid infections in the UK reached a new record high after an increase of 32 per cent in one day.

On Thursday morning in Brussels, the Taoiseach said Omicron's capacity to spread rapidly is causing "significant concern" among European Union nations, with the threat a key focus at today's EU Council summit.

“[There is] significant concern obviously in terms of the capacity of the variant to spread rapidly and to create pressure on our societies and on our health systems,” Micheál Martin told reporters.

“So today we’ll be looking for greater coordination on a number of fronts in respect of Covid-19, in terms of the digital cert, in terms of the vaccination programme and in terms of travel also.”

At home, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is meeting amid suggestions further restrictions on social mixing could be recommended for Christmas.

Christmas restrictions

The Irish Times reports that the State’s public health team will discuss tightening restrictions on large sporting events and hospitality, with warnings about large family gatherings and house parties also under consideration.

New preliminary modelling was presented to the Government on the future trajectory of the Omicron variant, with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly describing the situation as “very stark”.

Ministers were warned of a likely massive surge of infections as Omicron becomes dominant in the country, with optimistic scenarios seeing hospital and ICU numbers as high as last January but pessimistic scenarios a lot worse.

Despite the spread of Omicron, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting last night that schools would not close early and would reopen as scheduled next year.

He also said that up to two million people could have a booster vaccine by the end of the year. Under an expansion of the programme, vaccine centre opening times have been extended from 8am to 8pm and the 15-minute wait time after a dose has been waived to allow GPs and pharmacists to give more shots each day.

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