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CMO says two-metre distance is guidance, ‘not a hard and fast law’

Current Covid-19 restrictions specify that up to four people who don’t live together can meet outdoors while staying two metres apart.

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Chief medical officer Tony Holohan (Photocall Ireland)

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan (Photocall Ireland)

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan (Photocall Ireland)

The Chief medical officer has said the two-metre physical distance is guidance, not a hard and fast law.

It comes as photos and video appeared on social media on Sunday showing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, his partner and friends socialising in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

Dr Tony Holohan said while he acknowledged calls for the physical-distancing guidance to be reduced from two metres to one, the rules are being constantly kept under review and two metres was “a reasonable compromise given where we are”.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said: “The Taoiseach was in the Phoenix Park with his partner Matt and two friends on Sunday afternoon in line with public health guidance.

“He was within 5km of the Stewards Lodge, where he is staying during the covid emergency.”

“The Taoiseach has been in Stewards Lodge during the last few weeks as it has secure office and video-conferencing facilities, which allows him to work from home. Just like previous taoisigh, he pays a nightly fee to use it.”

Since last Monday, four people from different households are allowed to meet outdoors under phase one of the Government’s road map for reopening the country.

Mr Holohan said the two metres set out by the Government is guidance.

He added: “It is not a rule, it is guidance. It has been described as if it is some hard and fast law that is there. So it is guidance and like any guidance it has to be interpreted by people at an individual level and then by organisations.”

Asked about the photos of Mr Varadkar, Dr Holohan said: “People will take all sorts of inferences from media – both from pictures and videos and so on. People in public positions tend to get photographed and filmed more than others.”

“What I would say in relation to that is to come back to the guidance the public health team has issued. We talk about small groups outdoors in Phase One – the phase we are in at the moment.”

“Our guidance is that it is up to four persons not from the same household to meet outdoors while maintaining strict social distancing. That’s our guidance. I didn’t see any pictures that are in violation of that involving the Taoiseach.”

PA