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Confront people refusing to comply with social distancing, nation is told



Stern warning to all: Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

Stern warning to all: Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

Stern warning to all: Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

The Government is ramping up warnings that people must practise social distancing in a bid to save thousands of lives ahead of an expected surge in coronavirus cases.

The public has been told not to relax precautions for Mother's Day as concerns were raised that young people in particular are ignoring instructions to stay two metres from other people.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said Ireland faced the prospect of having to cut off towns as part of the battle to slow the spread of the disease and protect the vulnerable.

"All of these tens and hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people are our neighbours, families, friends, parents, grandparents, our children and cousins," he said.

Mr Coveney said people who held house parties or met up for football games needed to think about that and social distancing should be taken seriously. "If we do so, we will save lives, thousands of them," he added.

He said that when we look back in six to 12 weeks' time we'll wish we'd done more.

"We'll wish we had confronted those kids on a street corner," Mr Coveney said. "Let's, as a country, take this seriously and confront those who refuse to do that."

He made his remarks in the Seanad, which last night passed emergency legislation to tackle the virus outbreak.

Sinn Féin senator Máire Devine outlined an incident where teenagers were "terrorising" older people queuing outside a pharmacy.

She said they "started playing tag with the older people and running away shouting 'Covid-19'" before they were dispersed by gardaí.

Fianna Fáil senator Catherine Ardagh said she drove by a Dublin 8 skate park yesterday and it was "packed with teenagers skating and chatting to each other". She suggested more has to be done to "get the message across to people that they have to stay at home".

Elsewhere, HSE boss Paul Reid warned social distancing must still be practised despite wishes to visit mothers or grandmothers tomorrow for Mother's Day.

Junior Minister Seán Canney said he couldn't see his own 94-year-old mother.

"She's very happy because she's doing something for Ireland again," he said.

Mr Reid said: "We can't relax the guidance and the rules in place for a day.

"What we put in place we need compliance every minute, every hour, every day - birthdays, Mother's Day."

Mr Canney said the precautions were not to penalise people and it was "essential" that there was no relenting.

"This virus will not give up for a half an hour... or a day, so we should not either." The Government also delivered a reminder that while parks remain open, social distancing should be practised outdoors.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government would know towards the end of the month whether additional restrictions on the public's movements would have to be introduced to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

He did not rule out the introduction of further restrictions such as those in place in Italy, Spain and France which are all on lockdown, but he said he hoped the "authoritarian response" of other countries would not be needed.

Mr Varadkar said the emergency laws giving powers to shut down mass gatherings and order people to stay in their homes were about protecting human life.

He said it was "legislation that we hope never to have to use, but I think it is important that we have it in place".

Irish Independent