Ministers decide against reopening outdoor dining sooner

Government will not take substantial measures to deal with large crowds in cities

Large crowds of people gathered on South William Street, Dublin, at the weekend. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Large crowds of people gathered on South William Street, Dublin, at the weekend. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The Government has decided against taking any substantial new measures to deal with large crowds socialising in Dublin, Cork and Galway and other urban centres.

In informal discussions ahead of Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Ministers decided they would not bring the reopening of outdoor dining forward from next week (to prevent a repeat of such gatherings) but would focus instead on repeating public health messaging about social distancing, mask-wearing and the risks associated with congregated settings, even outdoor.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirmed on Monday that the June 7th reopening day for outdoor hospitality remains unchanged.

However, the Cabinet will also discuss if there are ways to make more toilets available to the public while hospitality businesses remain closed for indoor dining and drinking. While some restaurants and pubs doing takeaway services were allowing the public to use their bathrooms, there were discussions yesterday involving officials from several departments to see if councils and businesses could find ways of providing more facilities. Human waste was found outside some premises in Dublin over the weekend.

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Policing visibility

“It’s a combination of sunny weather and pubs being closed,” said one source, who added that the situation would change once full reopening occurs.

Another Government source said there was little appetite to “go too heavy” on younger people who had given up a lot during the lockdown. While saying that large crowds were not helpful, there was not the same pressure to move against such meetings as had been the case with house parties around Christmas.

“There is not a big desire to increase policing visibility too much as at least the crowds are outdoors and it is coming to the end of lockdown.

“It is mainly repeating the messaging and encouraging people to remain safe,” said the source.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the public needed to continue adhering to public health measures even in the final stages of high-level restrictions.

“We are on a pathway out of this pandemic, but this virus has taught us that if we let our guard down then we are set back on our journey to return to a more ‘normal’ life,” he said.

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