Coronavirus: Pubs asked to close in effort to stem outbreak as 40 new cases discovered

Closures affect 7,000 pubs and 50,000 staff; people urged not to hold house parties

The Government has called for the closure of the country’s 7,000 pubs from last night until at least March 29th in a further dramatic effort to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The move was considered essential ahead of the traditionally busy St Patrick’s Day bank holiday.

The move leaves 50,000 people in the pub trade out of work overnight in what one industry representative said was the “biggest loss of jobs in the history of the State”.

The request to close all pubs, including hotel bars, came as health officials said there were 40 new cases of Covid-19 in the Republic, the highest daily total since the State’s first case was confirmed on February 29th. This has brought the total number of cases in the State to 169.


Some 25 of the new cases were in the east of the country, nine in the west and six in the south. There were 11 new cases in Northern Ireland, bringing the total in the North to 45 and to 214 overall on the island of Ireland.

The decision to seek the closures came after social media videos showed Temple Bar pubs in Dublin over the weekend failing to abide by the social distancing guidelines introduced by the Government last week that recommend indoor gatherings not exceed 100 people. The request to shut bars came after industry representatives told Government officials they could not enforce the guidelines.

"The social distancing guidelines are completely unworkable in a pub setting, and we have seen regrettably a small number of pubs behave appallingly," said Donall O'Keeffe, chief executive of the Licensed Vintners Association.

The Government said the closures were “an essential public health measure given the reports of reckless behaviour by some members of the public in certain pubs”. Mr O’Keeffe described it as “an absolutely traumatic day” for the trade.

“There are 7,000 pubs closing with immediate effect, 50,000 jobs gone overnight, ” he said.

“It’s absolutely the right thing to do. We are doing it in the long-term interest of public health, of our staff and our customers.” He warned pubs that do not close would suffer “irreparable damage”.

Welfare payments

Discussions are ongoing between the industry and Government about arrangements for social welfare payments for affected staff and financial support for the pubs.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the closures were not an excuse for people to hold so-called Covid-19 parties and urged people not to hold house parties.

“We need people to show a bit of cop on, and a bit of common sense here. This is a very, very serious virus, and it has taken the lives of thousands of people across the globe,” he said, adding that officials were closely monitoring the situation in restaurants and cafes.

The Government is drafting legislation to deal with the pandemic that could lead to more stringent measures. Mr Harris confirmed he was considering activating a set of laws which have previously not been used.

Further regulations can be added to the 1948 infectious diseases regulations by the Minister for Health. These could include the requirement for adults or children to stay home or away from certain places.

Mr Harris said the HSE was being offered the use of private healthcare facilities, hotels and other premises, and he did not expect the Government to need requisitioning powers for extra capacity.

He said Opposition parties would be briefed on Monday.


The Garda and Defence Forces were set to commence a major new operation from Monday morning as part of the State's response to the Covid-19 crisis. Additional Garda resources are being drafted, with 12-hour shifts being introduced and annual leave restricted.

Gardaí aim to increase high-visibility patrols to provide reassurance to the public. They are expected to take a selective approach to making arrests, while still arresting violent suspects, in a bid to minimise the risk of people with Covid-19 being brought into stations as prisoners.

Some medical personnel now had the power, under the Health Act 1947, to compel people to go into isolation if they had Covid-19 or were suspected of having it.

Meanwhile, a member of staff at The Irish Times has tested positive for the coronavirus. The company’s offices in Dublin will be closed for at least 48 hours. The newspaper and website will continue to operate.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times