Chief medical officer urges people not to visit hardware stores

Tony Holohan said he does not view garden centres and hardware stores as ‘essential’

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/ The Irish Times

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/ The Irish Times


Garden centres and hardware stores are permitted to open this weekend but the chief medical officer has said he does not view them as “essential” retailers and urged the public not to make non-essential journeys.

New legislation, which was signed into law by Minister for Health Simon Harris on Tuesday, gives gardaí power of enforcement in relation to the restrictions on movement introduced by the Government two weeks ago.

The law, which came into effect on Wednesday and ceases to be effective from Sunday, is designed to ensure the public complies with social distancing measures over the bank holiday weekend.

However, among the “essential retail outlets” permitted to stay open are “hardware outlets, builders’ merchants and outlets that provide, whether on a retail or wholesale basis”.

These include “hardware products necessary for home and business maintenance, sanitation and farm equipment, or supplies and tools essential for gardening, farming or agriculture purposes”.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said the regulations were drafted “to ensure that a person accessing essential supplies can do so without committing an offence”.

She added there was “no change” to the National Public Health Emergency Team guidance in respect of garden centres and hardware shops.

However, when asked at the Department’s daily briefing on Covid-19 whether he viewed hardware stores or garden centres as essential retail services, the State’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “In my view they are not.”

Dr Holohan reiterated the Government’s call for people to adhere to the restrictions that have been placed on movement.

“We have identified the range of both essential and non-essential work,” he said. “If people are involved in travelling to places that are non-essential that will be something the regulations provide for.

“Our advice clearly is for people to stay with us, to avoid travelling in circumstances other than essential circumstances.

“We’ve set out the very limited range of those, travel for the purposes of grocery shopping, visiting to a pharmacy or supporting a vulnerable person in your own family, and travelling if you’re an essential worker.

“In all other circumstances – and that’s for everybody else in the population – the advice now at the moment is to stay at home and to stay at home for the period of time that we recommend.

“I understand completely and have enormous sympathy the challenge that this is for individuals, and the fatigue that this builds in over time with these measures and the challenge they represent as individuals.

“We’re saying we need to continue to get more improvement from the social distancing measures that are in place. We want the public to continue working with us.”