Government unlikely to reduce 2m social distancing guidelines in short-term

Cabinet members felt that one metre would allow restaurants and schools more latitude to open in the coming months.
Government unlikely to reduce 2m social distancing guidelines in short-term

The government is unlikely to halve the physical distancing guidelines in the short-term, despite calls from within Cabinet.

Friday's cabinet meeting featured what sources called "a proper ding dong" on whether Ireland could move to World Health Organisation advice that one metre distance be kept between people instead of the current two metre guidance.

Cabinet members felt that one metre would allow restaurants and schools more latitude to open in the coming months. The Restaurants Association of Ireland said that the alteration in guidance would be "a game changer" for their members.

It is understood that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar offered ministers a meeting with NPHET to discuss the distance.

However, the Taoiseach on Saturday poured cold water on the idea of changing the guidelines.

Health Minister Simon Harris told 2FM today that the rule is "constantly under review but is important to stick to for now". Sources say that there is little appetite to stray from public health advice at this time, with new cases of Coronavirus being reported daily.

The assistant secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach Liz Canavan said that there had been "much speculation" about whether Ireland could either halve its social distancing requirements or move through the phased road map quicker than anticipated.

She said that such decisions were a "risk-based approach" and said that two metres physical distancing was NPHET advice and was there to save lives.

That advice was echoed by WHO Special Envoy on Covid-19 Dr David Nabarro, who told RTÉ Radio's Today Show that the two-metre rule "keeps you safe 99% of the time".

"The WHO and others have said the best distance to keep away from people if you want to avoid inhaling a droplet is two metres.

"That's because that will keep you safe 99% of the time but you can greatly reduce risk even at one metre because 70% of the droplets will stick within one metre."

Dr Nabarro said that if a person must get closer than that, they should try to remain at least a metre away. He said that ventilation would be a key factor in deciding what to reopen and when, citing South Korea's rise in cases after reopening its nightclubs.

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