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Latest guidelines People attending outdoor parties still have to sit one metre apart, according to new rules

'physical distancing of at least one metre should be maintained between people seated at tables'

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Katherine Zappone

Katherine Zappone

Katherine Zappone

People attending outdoor parties will still have to sit one metre apart from one another, even if they are seated at the same table, according to new hospitality rules published in the wake of the Katherine Zappone party controversy.

The latest Fáilte Ireland guidelines say “physical distancing of at least one metre should be maintained between people seated at tables”.

It adds that “physical distancing of a minimum of one metre is required between the outer edges of the party or back of chair to back of chair”.

The same rules have applied to indoor dining since it returned.

The guidelines mean that even couples who live with each other should be seated a metre apart at the same table in a pub, restaurant or hotel.

However, Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said the rule was “absolutely not” being applied by the hospitality sector.

“It is one of those Nphet proposals that has no basis in the practicalities faced by our industry, but it is only a guideline and in our opinion not legally enforceable,” he said.

The Government was forced to issue new rules allowing parties of up 200 people outdoors after it emerged Tánaiste Leo Varadkar attended Ms Zappone’s party.

The new rules issued by Fáilte Ireland cleared the way for huge outdoor parties at pubs, restaurants and hotels for the first time since the pandemic closed down the country in March last year.

The redrafted guidelines also gave the green light for live music at outdoor parties. Music will be allowed outdoors at weddings, but receptions will have to remain inside and dancing is still prohibited.

People are not allowed to mingle between tables at outdoor parties and bands must be two metres away from guests.

Tourism Minister Catherine Martin pushed for the easing of restrictions on music when it emerged the guidelines would be revisited due to the controversy surrounding the Tánaiste.

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Mr Cummins said all of the new rules for outdoor parties were “unworkable” and would be impossible to police.

Despite the Government announcing a major easing of restrictions, Taoiseach Micheál Martin did not make a public address or hold a press conference as he has each time regulations were eased.

A cabinet meeting was also not called to sign off on the lifting of restrictions sparked by the Tánaiste attending Ms Zappone’s party.

Fáilte Ireland published the guidelines after Attorney General Paul Gallagher announced that laws underpinning guidelines for the hospitality sector allowed for outdoor parties of up to 200 guests.

Hours after it cleared the way for parties, the Government issued a warning that large social gatherings involving alcohol “aid the spread of the virus”.

In a statement issued after a Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 meeting, the Government said it understood the “frustration felt by those sectors of the economy and society that remain severely restricted or fully closed”.

“It is important to stress that these continued restrictions are based on public health advice,” it added.

It said this was why the remaining Covid-19 restrictions mainly relate to indoor activities and to live events and mass gatherings.

“For example, large gatherings and crowds that involve socialisation, including consumption of alcohol which reduces inhibitions, have all been shown to aid the spread of the Covid-19 disease,” the statement added.

There were 1,782 new cases yesterday, with 189 in hospital and 30 in ICU.

It comes as the Government signalled to the Catholic Church that communions and confirmations will be permitted under public health advice from next month.

Following a week of clashes with the church, it was decided to set out a roadmap for the return of communions and confirmations.

The intervention follows several bishops instructing their dioceses to hold the religious ceremonies in defiance of the Government’s guidelines.

“The Government has also noted the concerns expressed by church leaders about the public health guidance relating to religious ceremonies, and especially communions and confirmations,” the statement said.

“It hopes to see those restrictions lifted in September, subject to the public health situation at that time.

“The Government will engage further with relevant faith group leaders in the coming weeks.”

The Government is expected to signal a roadmap for the return of live music and entertainment. There will also be a plan for returning to offices.

It also said it would produce a roadmap for abolishing all restrictions.

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