DUBLIN, March 15 (Reuters) - The Irish government is considering imposing restrictions on pubs and nightclubs due to coronavirus, after videos of singing in packed bars in the capital on Saturday sparked a social media campaign to close them down.
Ireland, which has 129 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two deaths, closed schools and universities last week and advised people to cancel all indoor gatherings of 100 people or more.
But it stopped short of closing cafes, bars and restaurants, as some European states have done, citing the potential impact on workers and small businesses and saying owners should instead ensure customers well spaced out.
Videos showing packed bars with sing-alongs and crowded streets in Dublin’s Temple Bar nightlife district went viral on social media on Saturday under the #CloseThePubs hashtag.
One stag party, usually involving a group of men celebrating shortly before one their number gets married, was shown walking down the street in medical overalls and face masks.
Health Minister Simon Harris said images from packed bars were an insult to medical workers preparing for a pandemic.
Ireland’s European Minister Helen McEntee said that closing pubs restaurants would be devastating for workers but added that “unless people listen to public health advice and take this seriously then that’s where this is headed.”
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Sunday he was considering asking parliament for enforcement powers to keep numbers in bars to under 100.
“No indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people applies to pubs & clubs..... May seek enforcement powers from Dail/Seanad,” he said in a Twitter post, referring to the lower and upper houses of parliament.
He urged anyone who had gone out to avoid contact with the elderly of people with chronic diseases, he said.
Other Twitter users praised some pubs for voluntarily closing, with the DublinByPub.ie bar guide offering a list of responsible pubs “to go on the lash in when this is all over.” (Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Edmund Blair)