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'Unqualified spokespeople' - Green Party's call for socialising restrictions criticised by publicans

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Publicans have condemned the Green Party's calls for curtailed pub opening hours and restrictions on socialising to be considered in a bid to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

The Greens today called for pubs and restaurants to close at 6pm for the next two weeks and for nightclubs to shut as part of measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The party has also proposed the immediate closure of schools and banning of marriage, baptism and funeral ceremonies.

A spokesperson for the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said the group feel political parties are not "best placed" to offer advice on preventive measures.

"The LVA believes that the responsible and rational advice from the Chief Medical Officer and the Expert Advisory Group should be followed.

"As the experts in this field they, and not any political party, are best placed to advise the course of action for the country during this difficult period," a spokesperson said.

"The LVA notes that the Government has consistently adopted the advice of the Expert Advisory Group and believe this approach should be maintained."

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) also hit out at the proposals, saying that its members will not act on instructions from "unqualified spokespeople."

"It is important that decisions about how best to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus are made by experts and not unqualified spokespeople," they said.

"As of today there is no change to those instructions and pubs are operating as normal while providing staff and customers with appropriate hand washing facilities.

"Public health comes first and publicans will implement instructions from the Expert Advisory Group as they are published."

The Greens have written to all party leaders and health spokespersons seeking urgent discussions on such proposals tomorrow.

A statement this afternoon said the Green Party is concerned that measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 should be taken sooner.

"Bearing in mind the experience of other countries which are more advanced along the course of this epidemic, we are concerned that delaying these measures may result in a larger number of casualties. With exponential infection growth, every day counts," it added.

It said that the best public health advice must be followed but decisions relating to the economy go beyond the scope of clinical decisions.

They added: "We also believe that these decisions should be made on an all-party consensus basis."

The party has written to the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl to ask him to chair such talks.

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Councillor Ossian Smyth

Councillor Ossian Smyth

photo by: Peter Cavanagh [Must C

Councillor Ossian Smyth

Green Party health spokesman Ossian Smyth said: "People are aware that the decisions taken about how to deal with this virus are now critical.

"They want to know why business as usual at work and in education is continuing and why measures are being delayed as the rate of new cases accelerates by the day.

"They want to know if early and aggressive intervention would be more effective."

He questioned why actions like the closure of universities and businesses being taken by the individual organisations themselves, rather than by government.

He added: "People want their politicians to show leadership in the common interest at this time of crisis.”

The party listed possible measures they want discussed.

They include:

  • All companies immediately enforcing a work-from-home policy where possible.
  • A large increase in the number of virus tests being carried out by broadening the eligibility criteria for testing.
  • All schools and colleges closing immediately for a period of two weeks.
  • No other social events or meetings involving more than 100 people to be held.
  • People to confining themselves to their houses to the greatest extent possible.
  • Pubs and restaurants closing at 6pm for two weeks.
  • The closure of nightclubs, cinemas and theatres.

The party said that the two-week school closure could provisionally be designated as an early Easter break for the primary and secondary schools and they could work through Easter "assuming it’s safe to resume by then".

Religious institutions would be allowed to stay open "as long as people can stay a metre from one another".

But ceremonies such as marriages, baptisms and funerals could be banned.

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