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Closing time - pubs and bars shut in latest move to tackle virus fear

Extra resources rushed to hospitals

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Women stroll through Temple Bar after pubs decided to close. Photo: Reuters/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Women stroll through Temple Bar after pubs decided to close. Photo: Reuters/Lorraine O'Sullivan

REUTERS

Women stroll through Temple Bar after pubs decided to close. Photo: Reuters/Lorraine O'Sullivan

The country's pubs and hotel bars shut down last night in the latest bid to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Health Minister Simon Harr-is made the announcement yesterday only hours after video footage of a large gathering in a Dublin city pub went viral, causing widespread anger that social distancing requests were not being observed.

He said many pubs have found it "simply not possible to comply" with restrictions on numbers in indoor and outdoor gatherings.

"The pub is a place of social interaction. We know when people consume alcohol it can remove inhibitions. It's hard to tell people in such an environment to keep their social distance," he said.

The minister met the chief medical officer, senior government officials and the representative bodies of publicans across the country yesterday.

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The shutters were pulled down yesterday on pubs in Temple Bar and all over the country. Picture: Arthur Carron.

The shutters were pulled down yesterday on pubs in Temple Bar and all over the country. Picture: Arthur Carron.

The shutters were pulled down yesterday on pubs in Temple Bar and all over the country. Picture: Arthur Carron.

"In the interests of public health, all pubs and all bars in Ireland will close this evening until March 29. This will be kept under review," he said.

"I am conscious that public health must and will come first in this global and national pandemic, but I'm also conscious that there's about 50,000 people across the country who work in the pub trade.

"I'm conscious that there's about 7,000 pubs across our country, and I'm conscious I'm speaking to many people tonight for whom this is going to come as a shock and a worry, to say the very least.

Action

"I'm conscious that those people will be without employment for a period of weeks, but it's absolutely clear from international evidence, from the advice of our public health experts, that the best hope any country has of containing this virus and slowing down its spread is to take decisive action in line with public health advice."

The minister warned against what her termed "Covid-19 parties", which he has heard are being held around the country.

"This is not an excuse to have what I am now hearing is emerging around the country - Covid-19 parties. We need people to show a bit of cop-on and a bit of common sense," he said.

"This is a very, very serious virus that has taken the lives of thousands of people across the globe, including two people here in our own country. So can people please realise that this is a time of national crisis.

"We need people to show that basic cop-on and decency. If we talk about a national effort and inter-generational solidarity, that means not having a Covid-19 party in your house. It means not just replacing the pub with the home environment."

Meanwhile, the Herald can reveal the Government has started emergency planning for the Covid-19 crisis to extend beyond June amid fears that up to 50,000 people may fall critically ill with the virus.

Security

Sweeping contingency measures are now being introduced to rush extra medical resources to Irish hospitals and healthcare centres to cope with surging numbers of virus detections as well as extra sec- urity measures to protect the public, vital utilities and food supply systems.

Measures to support Irish hospitals as they face the greatest challenge in living memory will now include trainee doctors and nurses being introduced early at Irish hospitals and nursing homes in a bid to ease mounting pressure on frontline staff.

Third-year nursing graduates will have their placements used to undertake secondary roles and free experienced nursing staff for the frontline.

Graduate fifth-year doctors from medical schools have been told internship placements will be brought forward to May, providing Irish hospitals with a vital extra personnel boost.

Junior doctors are now being trained in specialist intubation procedures - the insertion of a breathing tube through the mouth and into the airway - normally carried out by senior doctors.