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Chief Medical Officer tells ministers he does not intend to recommend the reduction of the 2m rule

There have been calls to halve the guideline from 2m to 1m.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Updated May 27th 2020, 8:00 PM

CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER Tony Holohan has told Cabinet ministers he does not intend to advise that the 2 metre social distancing rule should be reduced. 

Ministers met with Holohan today to ask questions and to discuss the government’s public health advice related to Covid-19.

It is believed that Minister of State for Disabilities Finian McGrath pushed for the two metre rule to be reduced to one metre. The matter was also raised by ministers last week.

Speaking at this evening’s Department of Health briefing, Dr Holohan said he believes the current advice “represents a reasonable interpretation of the evidence and a precautionary approach to its application”. 

“We think it’s the right measure for now,” he said, adding that if ongoing research points in a different direction, it can be reviewed. 

Holohan said the meeting with ministers was “very straightforward”. 

“We were asked a series of what I would describe as intelligent, straightforward, obvious questions and we did our best to answer them.”

‘Common sense’

Concerns have been raised about the impact that the 2m distance will have on businesses as the country re-opens, as well as people’s ability to use public transport and the capacity of the health service.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last week that there would be no change to the advice following reports that a reduction to the 1m rule was raised by ministers.

Today, Labour’s Alan Kelly said the two metre social distancing rule lacks common sense, and that it will have to be reduced to one metre as the country reopen for social, economic and healthcare reasons.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Health Minister Simon Harris said there are some sectors where the 2m rule will not work, such as hairdressing, and protective provisions will have to be put in place.

It is understood that increasing the 5km distance that people are allowed to travel within was also discussed by Cabinet ministers today.

In Phase Two, the 20km is set to kick in. Today in the Dáil, Micheál Martin said he did not agree with the limits. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also called for amendments.

Today ministers also discussed concerns about the stalling of cancer screening.

Last week, other issues raised by ministers included provisions for children with special needs and senior citizens, an allowance for golfers to travel 20km, and quicker responses on testing.

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The main point of concern for ministers last week, which is expected to be a flashpoint at this week’s Cabinet meeting on Friday, is the mandatory isolation of people arriving in Ireland.

From tomorrow, those entering the country will be required to fill out a form and asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary is among those unhappy with the measure, telling Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio that the measure has no basis in science.

In previous advice to the government, Holohan has said that the isolation of those coming into the country could happen in “isolated centres”.

However, a number of ministers believe this matter would be a step too far, with one stating that it would make Ireland appear like a police state.

With reporting from Christina Finn.

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