It’s okay, kids, the coronavirus won’t keep Father Christmas at bay — not in Ireland, at least. Self-quarantine rules will not apply to Jolly Old Saint Nick, Ireland’s top diplomat confirmed on Thursday, seeking to allay any fears that might be fueling anxiety in children who’ve had plenty to worry about this year.
“We have been working on the Santa Claus issue for a number of weeks,” Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on the floor of the Irish parliament, without so much as a twinkle in his eye. “It’s important to say to all children in the country that we regard Santa Claus’ travels as essential travel for essential purposes, and therefore he is exempt from the need to self-quarantine for 14 days and should able to come in and out of Irish airspace, and indeed in and out of Irish homes, without having to restrict his movements.”
With a population of about 5 million, Ireland has managed to keep a tighter lid on its COVID-19 epidemic than many other European countries, blaming a total of around 2,000 deaths on the disease to date.
In line with most of its European neighbors, Ireland’s government currently “advises against all non-essential overseas travel to and from Ireland,” and anyone who flies in from outside the European Union [the North Pole is not in the EU] is “requested to restrict their movements for 14 days.”
Irish schools were closed during the first wave of the pandemic but they reopened for the autumn term. Infection rates have remained low, with schools relying on tracing of suspected cases and close contacts to make individual students revert to home learning for two-week isolation periods as necessary, largely avoiding whole-school closures.
But while Ireland’s kids, like their contemporaries around the world, have had ample time this year to familiarize themselves with the creaks and cracks of their homes’ floorboards, Coveney warned them not to go creeping around in the wee hours of Christmas morning.
With his advanced age and weakness for cookies, Santa Claus is, after all, in a high-risk group.
“I am assured that children should not stay up at night, because he does need to social distance,” said the foreign minister. “So people need to keep at least 2 meters away at all stages to make sure that we keep him safe, and indeed children as well.”
“He is exempt, he is coming,” stressed the diplomat, claiming first-hand information from the North Pole. “He has confirmed that and appreciates the fact that Ireland has ensured that in a very, very different Christmas in 2020, the visit of Santa Claus will be something that will remain consistent.”
Coveney did not say whether Santa would be required to wear a mask on his house calls.