Ireland’s PM has told people to hold off booking their flights home for Christmas, while Germany’s health minister warned that Covid-19 restrictions will likely continue throughout the festive period.

German Minister of Health Jens Spahn told local radio on Thursday that although the rate of infection is slowing across Germany, thanks to the ongoing ‘soft lockdown’, it would be unrealistic to assume things will go back to normal by December and January.

Spahn, who himself tested positive for Covid-19 at the end of October, said: “I don’t see events with more than 10 or 15 people happening this winter.”

Speaking earlier on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to say whether restaurants and bars might reopen in December, despite encouraging changes to the infection rate and the prospect that a vaccine might be ready before the new year.

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She reiterated her aim to see Covid infections fall to 50 cases per 100,000 people over seven days, but did not say whether the end of the lockdown would depend on this. The current seven-day infection rate is 139 per 100,000.

Meanwhile, Irish PM Leo Varadkar also warned people not to get carried away and to remain cautious in the run-up to the festive period.

Speaking in parliament, he said, “I know that’s difficult, I know that’s tough, but Christmas is six weeks away and it is too soon now for people to be booking flights to come home.”

The comments come as a stark reminder that despite recent positive news in the search for a viable vaccine, Covid-19 infection rates remain high in many European countries.

Earlier this week, people rejoiced following the news that Pfizer’s vaccine had proved to be 90 percent effective against the virus in final stage trials. The announcement saw stock markets rally amid renewed hope for a lockdown-free 2021.

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