Covid-19: Varadkar may seek special powers to close pubs and nightclubs

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By Aine McMahon PA

The Irish Government may seek enforcement powers to ensure that the ban on indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people applies to pubs and clubs.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has urged people who socialised in pubs and clubs at the weekend, to avoid the elderly and people with chronic diseases, to stop the spread of Covid-19.

He tweeted: "No indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people applies to pubs & clubs. Have asked NPHET for further expert guidance on this. May seek enforcement powers from Dail/Seanad."

His message comes despite restrictions on mass gatherings in the Republic of Ireland and guidelines on social distancing.

On Saturday night, Health Service Executive chief executive Paul Reid also urged pubs to "wise up quick" after videos of people crowding into them.

Some pubs and bars across the country have voluntarily opted to temporarily close as the Department of Health advised people should try to keep two metres between themselves and others.

Photos emerged on social media of crowded pubs in Dublin's Temple Bar on Saturday.

In a tweet, Health Minister Simon Harris said crowds gathering in small spaces was an "insult" to the efforts of healthcare workers.

He said: "Not far from here, nurses & doctors are working to prepare for the impact of a global pandemic. Everyone is working 24/7."

On Sunday morning, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said: "The advice on what each of us needs to do is clear, we all need to follow that advice, not just for our own health, but for the benefit of all those around us."

"Each one of us needs to think of vulnerable people in our midst and ask ourselves what we can do to help them through this."

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald urged people to avoid socialising in pubs and to keep all social contact to a minimum.

On Saturday, the Department of Health said a second person has died and 39 more cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Republic.

This brings the total number of cases in the Republic to 129 and the total number of deaths to two.

There are 34 cases of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland bringing the total number of cases on the island to 163.

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