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Wider reopening of pubs at risk after weekend scenes outside bars

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THE wider reopening of pubs from coronavirus restrictions later in the month is at risk over concerns over social distancing outside bars.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the government is not happy about incidents at some locations over the weekend and warned plans for the next phase of reopening remain "under review".

Pubs that sell food were allowed open from last week but the remainder of licenced premises are to reopen from phase four of the government's 'roadmap' due to begin on July 20.

Major concern has been sparked by videos that emerged on social media over the weekend showing hundreds of young people congregating to drink on Dame Lane in Dublin city centre.

Mr Martin said the majority of pubs that have already opened are compliant with the rules, including limits on how long customers can stay in the premises.

But he also said it was a "challenging weekend" and there were "difficulties" in social distancing where alcohol was sold for take-away purposes.

He said the regulations are being strictly applied by the industry but "we will be keeping it all under review in terms of phase four.

"Nothing can be guaranteed if this behaviour were to continue."

Asked if this means there's a possibility the remaining pubs won't reopen on July 20, he said:

"We want pubs to reopen safely on the 20th of July but we can't be blind to what's going on right now - those incidents where the guidance wasn't adhered to...

"We are keeping it under review. We're not happy with what transpired in certain locations over the weekend."

He said a new contact tracing App to be launched tomorrow is a welcome development as part of the coronavirus testing and tracing regime.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that more than 80pc of people are willing to download the app which would help trace contacts of coronavirus patients who aren't known to the individual.

He said referred the "scenes we saw over the weekend" in relation to pubs and said "if one of those people tested positive there might be 5, 10, 15 people they are close contact with and they have no idea who they are.

"Everyone who has the app would get a notification that they have been deemed a close contact."

Mr Donnelly said the App will be part of the country's arsenal in fighting coronavirus.

This comes after newly-appointed Justice Minister Helen McEntee called the crowds of people socialising outside of some pubs "disappointing."

The Minister said the issue on whether new powers were needed for Gardai to deal with Covid restrictions will be kept under review.

She was speaking after her first meeting with the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and was asked whether the Gardai had sufficient resources to deal with Covid restrictions particularly in the area of clubs and bars.

She said, "This is obviously something we need to continuously review. I think to date the vast majority of citizens, business, whether pubs or restaurants over the weekend, have complied with regulations.

"They put in place measures to not just protect their staff, but obviously protect people coming into their premises.

"Of course we have seen some scenes over the weekend that were disappointing.

"I would ask and I would urge everybody to comply with public health regulations because we have come so far. We have made such great progress and whilst we have been able to implement measures and bring them forward, what we do not want is to have to reimplement any of these measures that we have now relaxed over the last while."

In relation to reprimands for publicans who do not comply she said; "What we want to see is compliance from everybody and if you look at the vast majority of premises over the weekend, people were compliant.

"(And) measures were put in place so if we need to ask and engage with various different sectors to comply, we will do that and review that and if that does not happen, if certain premises continue to disregard those regulations, then obviously further measures will have to be taken but this is about working with people."

The Garda Commissioner said that over the weekend Gardai carried out 6,000 visits to licensed premises and, "what we found were the vast majority were compliant. We did find breaches of the regulations, we also found breaches of the licensing laws as well in a minority of cases.

"We also found a situation which was highlighted on social media in Dame Lane (Dublin), which was a public order situation and was dealt with as such.’

‘This has been a collective effort by society, I know there was shock at the scenes over the weekend, those scenes were pretty much isolated to one place. The broader picture is one of compliance and people particularly businesses doing their best."

He said Gardai have submitted a report to Government on what they experienced over the weekend and, "we will see what will come from that following our prior discussions with government but this is a situation that is evolving in terms of the practice we are seeing in licensed premises and we respond in terms of our operation."

Online Editors