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Pubs may face immediate shutdown for breaking Covid health rules

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Gardaí patrolling in Temple Bar, Dublin

Gardaí patrolling in Temple Bar, Dublin

Gardaí patrolling in Temple Bar, Dublin

New garda powers to immediately shut down pubs breaching Covid-19 restrictions are among proposals set to be considered by Government today.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee is expected to bring a memo to Cabinet outlining plans for new enforcement powers for gardaí.

The Herald understands that one option on the table is to give gardaí the power to close a pub for the rest of the day if it is found to be in breach of Covid-19 regulations.

Under rules for pubs, they are required to serve a meal costing at least €9 and limit the time customers can spend on the premises.

Closed

Currently, gardaí can only record a breach and warn that it may be considered when a pub's licence is up for renewal.

Under the proposals to be considered by ministers, if a garda that finds a pub breaking the rules, they would be able to contact a superintendent to seek permission for the premises to be closed for the rest of the day.

It comes as the sinister way in which the Covid-19 is now spreading infection - as the country faces the risk of another lockdown - has been revealed after it emerged 26 people who caught the virus in a pub restaurant passed it on to ten more in another workplace.

In another separate incident, six members of a sports club who caught the virus led to another 19 people at a social get together picking it up.

In a shop, seven staff, some of whom came to work despite having symptoms, were diagnosed with Covid-19.

The snapshot of real-life scenarios which was outlined at yesterday's health briefing at the Department of Health comes as health officials have again deferred a decision on the reopening of pubs which only serve alcohol until mid-September.

The semi-lockdown in Kildare also stays in place until early next month, when it will be reviewed.

Dr John Cuddihy of the country's disease watchdog, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said 392 outbreaks of Covid-19 are open and under investigation.

252 cases relate to people meeting up in private houses. Many of these outbreaks in families and houses are linked to each other.

"It can start in one house and spread to another. Congregating in groups is a risk factor," he warned.

Sticking with the guideline to confine house guests to six people from no more than three households is crucial, and when it does happen there must be physical distancing, hand washing and covering of coughs, he warned.

It comes as another 93 cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed yesterday, with no new deaths.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said he was not looking at another national lockdown "as we stand" - but the next two weeks are crucial.

It will be next week before the impact of the recent restrictions, aimed at stemming the rise in cases of the virus, become clear and so far there is evidence the spread of the virus is "disimproving slowly".

Yesterday, 34 cases were in Dublin, 7 in Kildare, 6 in Donegal, 6 in Laois, 5 in Limerick, 5 in Wexford and the remaining 30 cases are in Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Louth, Meath. Monaghan, Offaly, Tipperary, Westmeath and Wicklow.

Infection

Dr Glynn said: "We continue to see a slow growth of Covid-19 in Ireland. The most effective action we can take to reduce the transmission rate of this virus is to reduce our number of close contacts.

"If we do this, and keep practising the other safe behaviours by continuing to physical distance, avoid crowds, wash our hands, cover our coughs and sneezes, wear a face mask where appropriate and download the Covid Tracker app, we have a real chance of slowing the spread of the virus to where we want it to be."