March 23, 2020 / 8:54 AM / 6 days ago

Ireland to develop guidelines for public spaces

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland will develop guidelines to help people adhere to government recommendations to stay apart in public spaces to rein in the spread of coronavirus after crowds gathered in parks and beaches at the weekend.

Ireland, which has reported 906 cases, four deaths and has closed schools, universities, childcare facilities and pubs, received “significant feedback” from the public in relation to the lack of social distancing, a senior official said on Monday.

Police closed a popular road in the Wicklow Mountains on Sunday due to the amount of traffic and appealed to the public to avoid nearby scenic areas in order to comply with the voluntary social distancing measures.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he had asked the country’s chief medical officer (CMO) and his team, which advises the government on restrictions, to examine the weekend scenes with a view to coming up with further recommendations

“It’s clear that the vast majority of citizens are complying with the guidelines, but compliance is not universal, as you will all have seen,” Elizabeth Canavan, an assistant secretary at Varadkar’s department, told a news conference.

“The CMO is continuing to monitor the situation, however we will be teleconferencing with relevant public authorities, including national parks, to develop clear, simple public messaging so we can continue to enjoy these public spaces safely at this time.”

Health Minister Simon Harris earlier suggested guidance may also be needed for businesses operating near public spaces after photos on social media showed a long line of customers side-by-side outside a fish shop near the Dublin coast.

A number of food and coffee chains announced on Monday that they would close temporarily, including McDonalds, Costa Coffee, Subway and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Bank of Ireland will also temporarily shut almost half of its branches, redeploying staff to serve customers impacted by the economic disruption.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Catherine Evans and Angus MacSwan

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