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Government to review two-metre rule for pubs and restaurants

The National Public Health Emergency Team is reviewing the rules for the hospitality sector as Ireland’s lockdown eases.

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Business Minister Heather Humphreys has said the two-metre social distancing rule may be changed to help the hospitality industry as Ireland’s lockdown eases (Brian Lawless/PA)

Business Minister Heather Humphreys has said the two-metre social distancing rule may be changed to help the hospitality industry as Ireland’s lockdown eases (Brian Lawless/PA)

Business Minister Heather Humphreys has said the two-metre social distancing rule may be changed to help the hospitality industry as Ireland’s lockdown eases (Brian Lawless/PA)

The two-metre social distancing rule may be changed as the Government examines how services can function with current restrictions, Business Minister Heather Humphreys has said.

Last week, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) warned that “stricter measures” may have to be reinstated if there is an increase in cases of Covid-19 following the Government’s decision to accelerate the plan to reopen Ireland.

On Monday, under phase two of the lockdown, all retail stores reopened, but restaurants and pubs serving food cannot reopen until June 29.

A government report has claimed that the current two-metre rule could decimate the industry and lead to up to 85,000 job losses.

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Business Minister Heather Humphreys during a coronavirus media briefing at Government Buildings in Dublin (Photocall Ireland/PA)

Business Minister Heather Humphreys during a coronavirus media briefing at Government Buildings in Dublin (Photocall Ireland/PA)

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Business Minister Heather Humphreys during a coronavirus media briefing at Government Buildings in Dublin (Photocall Ireland/PA)

Speaking at Government Buildings on Monday, Ms Humphreys signalled that the distance could be reduced to one metre to ensure their survival.

“Restaurants and the entire hospitality sector is working with Failte Ireland and they have put together some protocols,” she said.

“They are working with the Health Service Executive and the Health and Safety Authority on those. That will allow them to ensure conditions are safe for their staff and customers.

“As part of their work, they are looking at the implementation of the two-metre rule across the hospitality sector and, provided that coronavirus figures go in the right direction and the transmission rate remains low, it might be that, in certain spaces, it won’t be necessary to strictly apply the two-metre rule. But again, this is all under review.”

Earlier, Health Minister Simon Harris told RTE radio: “Two metres is definitely safer than one.

“However, the National Public Health Emergency Team did recognise in a letter to me on Friday that there may be some settings in which the two metres may not be easily applied.

“What they have now said they will do is they will review the application of the social distancing measure in the hospitality sector on the condition that the prevalence of the virus remains low.”

PA