Cabinet ministers to meet CMO to discuss physical distancing rules

Cabinet ministers will meet the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan this afternoon to discuss Ireland's physical distancing rules.

The lunchtime meeting will provide ministers with the opportunity to ask questions of Dr Holohan, specifically around whether people have to keep two metres from one another or if that distance can be halved.

Last Friday's cabinet meeting featured what was described as a "proper ding dong" on the issue, with some ministers advocating a change in guidance to follow World Health Organisation minimum distancing of one metre.

The WHO's envoy on Covid-19 Dr David Nabarro told RTÉ radio on Monday that the two-metre distance "keeps you safe 99% of the time", but businesses and schools have said a change to one metre would be "a game changer" in their reopenings.

Publicly, Dr Holohan has said that the distance is under constant review but as of now it is a "reasonable compromise" but said it is not a rule.

"It is not a rule, it is guidance. It has been described as if it is some hard and fast law that is there. So it is guidance and like any guidance it has to be interpreted by people at an individual level and then by organisations."

Dr Holohan is expected to lay out the latest data on the virus in Ireland, as well as telling ministers how the country is progressing through the road map for reopening.


The Chief Medical Officer will brief Cabinet ministers this afternoon about how Ireland is doing in the fight against Covid-19.

The two-metre social distancing rule and restrictions are expected to dominate the agenda.

New coronavirus cases have been declining with 37 reported yesterday while on Monday no new deaths were reported for the first time in weeks but they rose again to nine yesterday.

While caution is still advised, the declining numbers have led to questions about whether some restrictions could be eased sooner with many businesses like hairdressers eager to reopen.

The two-metre social distancing rule is another topic up for discussion and if this could be reduced to one in line with guidance from the World Health Organisation, restaurants and cafes among those who would greatly benefit from this.

Cabinet ministers will question CMO Dr Tony Holohan on these issues when he briefs them this afternoon.

Speaking earlier this week, Dr Holohan said he does not yet believe that the international guidance on the virus has changed to the extent which would mean a halving of the guidelines.

"I understand the impatience to end this but if we can keep the low level of infection, we can progress through the road map."

Meanwhile, at the weekend, the HSE said reducing social distancing limits would "significantly" increase hospital capacity.


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