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Minister for Health says all pubs should close from tonight

The decision was announced this afternoon by health minister Simon Harris.

Image: Shutterstock/VanderWolf Images

ALL PUBS SHOULD close from tonight, the government has advised, in the latest measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 in Ireland. 

This afternoon, a meeting took place between government officials, the Vintners Federation of Ireland and the Licenced Vintners Association following concerns that pubs were struggling to follow the social distancing guidelines announced on Thursday. 

The advice, which includes hotel bars, was announced following that meeting and calls for pubs to shut until at least 29 March. A government spokesperson said that it was “important that all pubs are closed in advance of St Patricks’ Day”.

Both the Licenced Vintners Association and the Vintners Federation of Ireland have called on members to follow the advice and close. They estimate that the decision will cost 15,000 jobs. 

The government also called on people not to organise house parties or parties in other venues, but said that off licenses are not covered by the advice. 

Speaking to reporters at the Department of Health today, health minister Simon Harris said that the “scenes we saw last night in pubs were really disappointing”.

Pubs that don’t close will do themselves “irreparable reputational damage”, Donal O’Keefe of the Licenced Vintners Association said today. “Their customers will force them to close.”

Earlier today, publicans in Temple Bar bowed to growing public and political pressure, closing all pubs with immediate effect in the popular tourist spot.  

There are currently 129 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland, with more expected to be announced this evening. 

In the North, 11 new cases were confirmed earlier today – bringing the total number of cases there to 45.

This morning, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that he may seek to introduce new powers to prevent people from gathering in pubs and nightclubs, while last night Harris criticised people attending a packed pub in what appeared to be Dublin city centre.

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A garda spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that gardaí had visited hundreds of licensed premises over the last 24 hours to remind businesses of the need to implement the HSE guidelines on social distancing. 

Public health officials had said on Friday that the aim of the new social distancing measures – announced by the government on Thursday – were to reduce “discretionary social contact”.

“We are not locking down the country,” Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said on Friday. 

For now, restaurants and cinemas will not be advised to close but the situation is being kept under review by the government. 

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