The Government has started a new social media campaign to give young people affected by Covid-19 restrictions an outlet to voice their experiences.

Assistant Secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach, Liz Canavan, said that the movement, under #antiviral, is available now on social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

She said that young people have been particularly badly affected by restrictions this year: "From school closures to restrictions on meeting friends, from not being able to attend college in person, not being able to get a job, to missing out on so many rites of passage and formative experiences."

A number of departments and outside groups have been consulted to find out more about the effects of this, Ms Canavan said: "As a group, they have sometimes been unfairly highlighted for images of non-compliance that appear from time to time on social media. We don't believe this represents the behaviour of the majority.

"We have seen incident rates fall among young people. We know the enormous effort and sacrifice this takes.

"We want to emphasise the positive behaviours of the majority and to give this silent majority a forum to make their voices heard."

Ms Canavan also said that Christmas will be different this year, "but hopefully we will be out of this soon, so let’s take that on board and celebrate as safely as we can".

Helplines to help you this Christmas

While places of worship can reopen tomorrow, the limit on attendance at funerals and weddings will be 25. 

Gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres can reopen, but only for individual training, and gym owners have been urged to be vigilant to ensure their properties do not become gathering points, and scheduling group exercise classes will be a breach of the restrictions.

At a briefing, Ms Canavan said that planning ahead and limiting contacts with other people will be key to keeping numbers low as restrictions ease from tomorrow.

She said that while we are still recording new cases and deaths as a result of Covid-19, the numbers are lower while hospital and ICU numbers have also stabilised.

This has come as "a great cost" to many people who have not been able to see family or friends or who have not been able to access "valued social outlets" and has also been hard on many businesses, and will remain like that even under level three restrictions, she said.

Ms Canavan said that it is important to approach the Level 3 restrictions with the same level of caution as level five.

Liz Canavan

She said: "We know how difficult it is and we don't want to go back there," she said in relation to the tighter rules. 

"It’s important we continue to protect the vulnerable in our communities."

The basic message from Government has remained the same since March, she said: "Leep contacts low, every contact counts."

The key to protecting people and to living safely is to "keep numbers low" and this "requires vigilance," Ms Canavan said.

In the run-up to Christmas, she urged people to plan ahead for any meetings with other people, to minimise risk, and to meet people online rather than in person, when possible. 

She said: "Actively manage that risk, outdoors is better than indoors, shorter interactions are better than longer."

Ms Canavan said that, even if things are permitted under Level 3, people might not feel comfortable going to someone else's home as they may be vulnerable themselves or have a vulnerable member of their family. 

She said: "Don’t get offended if someone refuses an invitation.

"Christmas will be different, but hopefully we will be out of this soon so let’s take that on board and celebrate as safely as we can."

Planning ahead should also be done when it comes to shopping, she said, adding that people should support local retailers and businesses. Shop early in the month when possible, shop at off-peak times, and shop alone. Anyone feeling unwell should stay at home.

"This pandemic has had an enormous impact on everyone. No-one has been unaffected. We have become used to behaviours and restrictions that would have been unthinkable previously," she said, adding that young people have been particularly affected, "from school closures, to restrictions on meeting friends, from not being able to attend college in person, not being able to get a job, to missing out on so many rites of passage and formative experiences".

In relation to vaccines, she said that the Government will keep people informed on the latest information because they know how keenly people are waiting for the hope that a vaccine might bring.

She said: "We’ve been working very hard here and with our European partners to make sure we are prepared to get this to as many people as possible as quickly as we can. While the news is positive, it will take time, so while there is cause for hope it doesn’t lessen the need to stick to the safe behaviours that I have spoken about and that have served us well so far."