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Irish PM mulls coronavirus restrictions on pubs after outcry

Irish PM Leo Varadkar (Reuters-Yonhap)
Irish PM Leo Varadkar (Reuters-Yonhap)
The Irish government isconsidering imposing restrictions on pubs and nightclubs due tocoronavirus, after videos of singing in packed bars in thecapital on Saturday sparked a social media campaign to closethem down.

Ireland, which has 129 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two deaths, closed schools and universities last week and advisedpeople to cancel all indoor gatherings of 100 people or more.

But it stopped short of closing cafes, bars and restaurants, as some European states have done, citing the potential impacton workers and small businesses and saying owners should insteadensure customers well spaced out.

Videos showing packed bars with sing-alongs and crowdedstreets in Dublin's Temple Bar nightlife district went viral onsocial media on Saturday under the #CloseThePubs hashtag.

One stag party, usually involving a group of men celebratingshortly before one their number gets married, was shown walkingdown the street in medical overalls and face masks.

Health Minister Simon Harris said images from packed barswere an insult to medical workers preparing for a pandemic.

Ireland's European Minister Helen McEntee said that closingpubs restaurants would be devastating for workers but added that "unless people listen to public health advice and take thisseriously then that’s where this is headed.

"Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Sunday he wasconsidering asking parliament for enforcement powers to keepnumbers in bars to under 100."

No indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people appliesto pubs & clubs..... May seek enforcement powers fromDail/Seanad," he said in a Twitter post, referring to the lowerand upper houses of parliament.He urged anyone who had gone out to avoid contact with theelderly of people with chronic diseases, he said.

Other Twitter users praised some pubs for voluntarilyclosing, with the DublinByPub.ie bar guide offering a list ofresponsible pubs "to go on the lash in when this is all over." (Reuters)

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