Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

16.07 25 May 2020


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The Government is being urged to follow the example of other European countries and reduce the two metre social distancing requirement to one metre.

The Restaurant Association of Ireland claims Ireland has 'scrapped' international guidelines by sticking to the two metre rule.

Currently, the WHO is advising members of the public to "maintain at least one metre" between themselves and others.

The public health advice in Ireland remains for people to keep two metres apart.

Speaking on Lunchtime Live, Adrian Cummins - CEO of the RAI - says a "national conversation" is needed on the prospect of reducing the current requirement.

Ireland has 'scrapped WHO guidelines' by sticking with two metre rule, restaurant group claims

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He observed: “We went into this crisis in March under WHO guidelines, and somewhere along this journey we’ve decided to move away from WHO guidelines. The Department of Health has decided… we’re going to go for 2m social distancing.

“A lot of European countries - very conservative European countries such as Austria, Finland, Norway and Denmark - have reduced their social distancing guidelines down to one metre, to try first of all to protect public health, and second of all to try and ignite their economy.

“Somebody is going to have to pay for the health service in this country, somebody is going to have to pay to keep the country going. Small businesses such as our sector… we’re trying to get back and operating, and take [staff] back on."

Mr Cummins said it's clear some politicians are starting to question the existing the advice.

He said: “The clarity we would require… why in Austria they’re at one metre… and they’re basing their evidence on science. Is the science in Ireland different to those other countries?

“We went into this on WHO guidelines… at what stage did we decide to scrap their guidelines and move away from it?"

'The worst thing is if you lose money'

Meanwhile, a bar and restaurant owner told the show that reopening before August is looking like 'too big a gamble' for his business.

Many bars are planning to reopen in June as restaurants ahead of the planned reopening of pubs in August.

However, Ernest - owner of Electric bar & restaurant in Cork - said the lack of guidance so far means they're going to hold off until later in the summer.

He said: “I’m trying to keep a staff in place… how many customers we can have will determine how soon we’ll open, and how many of those staff are coming back.

“We’re aiming for August to be reopen. I think it’s going to be very tricky at the start - not that I want to see what people do wrong, but I want to see what they do right.

“I’d usually be an early adopter and take a punt on things, but it’s just too big a gamble - with your reputation and customers’ health."

Ernest suggested a reduction to one metre could be the 'difference between opening or not'.

He said: “Some people think the worst thing that can happen if you open a business is that you don’t make any money - but obviously the worst thing is if you lose money.

“If we can accommodate more people… there’s more of a chance the business would be viable.”

However, he also warned that it's still unclear whether possible measures such as perspex glass will be effective or acceptable to either health officials or customers.

He also pointed to the challenges of outdoor seating in Ireland - saying it'd 'likely to be too windy' for people to eat outside in Cork today, despite sunny weather.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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