Irish PM says good chance social distancing rule can be relaxed

Leo Varadkar said the current rate of infections does not yet allow for the prospect of halving social distance. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Irish PM says good chance social distancing rule can be relaxed

  • Ireland’s hospitality sector is facing one of the longest shutdowns in Europe
  • The daily number of new COVID-19 cases has stayed below 100 for 13 of the last 14 days

DUBLIN: Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar raised the prospect on Friday of halving social distancing rules from two meters to one if the rate of coronavirus infections comes down further in a potential boost to still shuttered restaurants and pubs.
Facing one of the longest shutdowns in Europe, Ireland’s hospitality sector has called for the guidelines to be eased in line with a number of other European countries, saying it could be the difference between some operators reopening or not.
“Before we can relax that rule and maybe reduce it to 1 (meter), 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,” Varadkar told Ireland’s FM104 radio station.
The daily number of new COVID-19 cases has stayed below 100 for 13 of the last 14 days and the so-called “reproduction rate” narrowed further to 0.4 to 0.5 this week, a trend the country’s top epidemiologist described as “astonishingly stable.”
Ireland partially eased stay-at-home restrictions last week, the first of a five-stage plan that currently only sees restaurants opening in late June, hotels in July and finally pubs in August, far later than many European countries.
Restaurants in Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Germany have reopened with looser 1 to 1.5 meter guidelines. Operators in the Czech Republic, Iceland and Switzerland that have had to stick to 2 meters have had the benefit of being open since May to try to salvage some of the busy summer season.
Varadkar said on Wednesday that he hoped to be in a position to speed up the reopening plan next week.
“I certainly want to accelerate it. It’s really the numbers next week that tell us whether we’re still going in the right direction,” he added on Friday. 


Four in Daniel Pearl case to remain jailed in Pakistan for now

Updated 02 July 2020

Four in Daniel Pearl case to remain jailed in Pakistan for now

  • A Karachi court sparked outrage when it acquitted British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three other men who had been convicted of Pearl’s murder
  • The men were kept in custody following their acquittals, under a law allowing authorities to detain high-profile militants for three months

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities renewed the detention orders Thursday for four men whose convictions in the kidnapping and killing of US journalist Daniel Pearl had been overturned, meaning they will remain jailed at least three more months, an official said.
A Karachi court sparked outrage in April when it acquitted British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three other men convicted in Pearl’s 2002 kidnapping and beheading.
The men were kept in custody following their acquittals, under a law allowing authorities to detain high-profile militants for three months.
“We have received orders from the (provincial) government for them to be detained for a further three months,” a prisons official in Karachi’s Sindh province told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Pakistan’s supreme court is expected to hear an appeal of the acquittal cases in September.
Pearl, 38, was South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story on extremists.
A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in the city nearly a month later.
Observers at the time said the killers were acting out of revenge for Pakistan’s support of the US-led invasion of neighboring Afghanistan.