Friday, May 29, 2020

By Vivienne Clarke

Wider calls have been this week to reduce the coronavirus social distancing rules in public as well as in work to help the hospitality industry reopen quicker.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended the two metre social distance guideline saying that two metres is safer than one metre if in the vicinity of a person with the virus.

Speaking on Dublin radio station FM104, Mr Varadkar said that two metres was a guideline, not the law or a regulation, but it was a guideline to which he was asking people to adhere.

“Before we can relax that rule and maybe reduce it to one metre, which I know a lot of people would like, we just need to see the virus come down a bit more. We’re not at that point yet, but I think there’s a good chance we get there, just not quite yet.”

Mr Varadkar thanked the public for their response to the guidelines to date and said if they had not been introduced there could have been 30,000 deaths from Covid-19.

The Taoiseach also said a proposal to resolve the issue of women on maternity leave being excluded from the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme should be signed off by the Cabinet today.

He explained that there are 2,000 women affected by this anomaly because they were on maternity leave when the temporary scheme was introduced and were subsequently removed from payroll by their employers, meaning they were not eligible for the scheme.

When asked about advice for the public keen to enjoy the good weather this Bank Holiday weekend, Mr Varadkar said he understood how people wanted to get out and they could do so for exercise, and to meet family in friends out of doors in groups smaller than four.

They should also wear sunscreen, he added, but he would not be going outside the garden himself this weekend, he said.

“I don’t want to give my press officer a heart attack.”

On the issue of face masks, the Taoiseach said they should be viewed as “an extra” but they were not “some magic shield.” He said he wears a plain cloth one himself.

“People have stopped sending me socks and they’re sending me masks. I now have a few nice ones. But I don’t wear a surgical mask as I don’t want them to run out.”

Mr Varadkar said that he wants to accelerate the Government’s roadmap for reopening the country, but that a judgement call cannot be made until next week when the figures are known “and we can see if we’re moving in the right direction.” Phases can be brought forward if the virus numbers are kept under control, he said.

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