All pubs and bars in the Republic of Ireland are going to be closed for two weeks from midnight on Sunday in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The closures come ahead of St Patrick’s Day on Tuesday, which is one of the busiest days in the year for these establishments, especially in tourist-heavy locations such as Dublin.
The Irish Department of Health has now confirmed 169 cases of COVID-19 in the country, with 45 more in Northern Ireland.
Two have died in the Republic of Ireland after contracting coronavirus.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was at pains to stress on Saturday that the government’s social distancing guidelines also applied to pubs and restaurants as the public criticised apparent rule-breakers on social media.
Images shared on Facebook and Twitter showed hundreds of people crammed into bars this weekend, despite health authorities warning people to keep at a distance from each other.
He threatened to seek enforcement powers to sanction establishments which appeared to be operating in breach of the rules in place until at least 29 March.
The Republic’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “In regard to upcoming St Patrick’s Day celebrations, the government is calling on all members of the public not to organise or participate in any parties in private houses or other venues which would put other peoples lives at risk.”
All schools and colleges have been closed in the Republic of Ireland as a result of the outbreak, however those in Northern Ireland remain open.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster said yesterday that now was too soon to close educational establishments, adding that when the advice she received changed then she would do “everything in our power to try to protect our citizens”.
Although originally a religious festival for St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, the day has has taken on additional cultural relevance among the Irish diaspora, especially in America.
The annual St Patrick’s Day parade in New York City has been cancelled for the first time in its 258-year history.
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