Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced the measure, which will see pubs and bars banned from opening for at least two weeks, late Sunday. He also urged people not to go to house parties and to avoid contact with the elderly and other at risk groups if they decided to go out. It comes after the Irish Government launched a series of drastic measures to help curb the spread of coronavirus earlier in the week, including the closure of schools and childcare facilities.
It means people will not be able to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on Tuesday March 17 at their local pub.
Last year an estimated two million people attended St Patrick’s celebrations in Ireland.
Health Minister Simon Harris acknowledged the decision would have a huge effect on the hospitality sector, but said the move was in the best interests of the public.
Cafés, restaurants and hotels will remain open, but hotel pubs will be asked to close.
Announcing the news on Twitter, Mr Varadkar wrote: “Following discussions today with the Licenced Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), the Government is now calling on all public houses and bars (including hotel bars) to close from this evening (Sunday 15th March) until at least 29 March.
“The LVA and VFI outlined the real difficulty in implementing the published Guidelines on Social Distancing in a public house setting, as pubs are specifically designed to promote social interaction in a situation where alcohol reduces personal inhibitions.
“For the same reason, the Government is also calling on all members of the public not to organise or participate in any parties in private houses or other venues which would put other people’s health at risk.
“The Government, having consulted with the Chief Medical Officer, believes that this is an essential public health measure given the reports of reckless behaviour by some members of the public in certain pubs last night.
“While the Government acknowledges that the majority of the public and pub owners are behaving responsibly, it believes it is important that all pubs are closed in advance of St Patricks’ Day.
“The Licenced Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) both supported this decision and urged all their members to close in line with the Government’s request.”
It comes as 40 new cases of the virus were confirmed on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases in the Republic of Ireland to 169.
The National Public Health Emergency Team will meet on Monday 15 March to continue its review of Ireland’s ongoing preparedness to COVID-19.
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The UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said Boris Johnson has not ruled out introducing similar lockdown measures in Britain, including the closure of pubs and restaurants.
When asked if the UK could end up closing all non-essential shops, Mr Hancock told BBC’s Andrew Marr: “We haven’t ruled that out.
“We will do what is necessary because the top priority is to protect life and you do that by protecting the vulnerable and protecting the NHS.”
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