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Irish backstop – Pressure builds to limit big gatherings over coronavirus


Boris Johnson

Irish backstop – Pressure builds to limit big gatherings over coronavirus

The first meeting of a Cabinet committee on the coronavirus will take place at Government Buildings on Monday as Ireland comes under pressure to follow a number of other European countries in limiting large public gatherings. The French government announced on Sunday it was banning all gatherings of more than 1,000 people in a bid…

Irish backstop – Pressure builds to limit big gatherings over coronavirus

Irish backstop –

The first meeting of a Cabinet committee on the coronavirus will take place at Government Buildings on Monday as Ireland comes under pressure to follow a number of other European countries in limiting large public gatherings.

The French government announced on Sunday it was banning all gatherings of more than 1,000 people in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, a move that casts doubt on whether the Six Nations rugby finale between France and Ireland in Paris next Saturday will go ahead.

Germany’s health minister has recommended a similar ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people, although it is not yet government policy, while Italy has put almost a quarter of the country in lockdown due to the rapid spread of the disease.

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Officials and medical staff were on Sunday updating briefings for Ministers and senior civil servants ahead of Monday’s Cabinet subcommittee meeting.

Members of the committee – chaired by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and including Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Minister for Health Simon Harris, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Transport Shane Ross – will be briefed on the latest infection statistics and projections for future infections by public health and infectious diseases experts.

Officials said on Sunday that European developments – including the new measures in Italy and crowd controls elsewhere – would be discussed by Ministers on Monday. Opposition parties are due to be briefed after the meeting.

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On Monday morning acting Minister for Transport Shane Ross said public health officials, not the Government, would decide whether to call off the St Patrick’s Day festival.

“It is a decision which I won’t make and the government as a whole won’t make. Politicians won’t make it. It will be a health decision. We will take their advice,” he said.

Thirty-three cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed on the island of Ireland, with 21 in Ireland and 12 in Northern Ireland.

An Irish-born expert in molecular evolution has warned that Ireland is like Italy a few weeks ago . “There is no reason to think that Ireland and Italy are so different,” Prof James McInerney told RTÉ Radio. “Ireland’s future is not so different from Italy.”

In the UK, prime minister Boris Johnson will chair an emergency meeting of senior ministers to discuss the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis following the UK’s third death linked to the illness.

Public Health England confirmed on Sunday evening that a man in his 60s, with underlying health problems, died at North Manchester General Hospital after testing positive for Covid-19.

It came on the day that confirmed cases of the virus in the UK reached 278, after more than 23,500 people had been tested. Mr Johnson will tell a meeting of the Government’s Cobra committee on Monday that tackling the outbreak will require a “national and international effort”.

In the United States, officials are preparing to receive thousands of people on board a cruise ship with at least 21 people on board infected by the coronavirus.

Fences were being installed at an 11-acre site at the Port of Oakland, as authorities organised flights and buses to whisk the more than 2,000 passengers aboard the Grand Princess to military bases or their home countries for a 14-day quarantine.

More than 3,500 people on the ship come from 54 countries, including Ireland.

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