Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has reaffirmed that the two-metre social distancing rule "stands", and there has been "no change" to the public health advice.

Mr Varadkar made the remark this morning after it was revealed that several Cabinet ministers advocated yesterday for the adoption of World Health Organization guidance, which states that a one-metre distance is considered to be safe.  

This afternoon Minister for Health Simon Harris said the advice from doctors to the people of Ireland is that for people to keep themselves safe and well, they need to keep two metres away from others. 

He said other countries had taken differing views but it was up to our National Public Health Emergency Team to scan all the available advice and advise the Government accordingly.  

If a person was two metres away from another person, they were less likely to be infected by droplets from that person, he said  He said the issue was under constant review by NPHET. 

It is understood the issue will be raised at a meeting between Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and the Cabinet later this week, which had been already been scheduled for exchanges on general public health advice. 

Advocates of halving the social distance rule argue that it would have a very positive impact for both small businesses and schools. 

However, Opposition parties have been strongly critical of how the issue of social distancing is being handled by the Government. 

Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O'Reilly said: "This type of ambiguity and speculation is unfair to businesses preparing to open and for teachers preparing schools for reopening.

"Leaking to the media and drip feeding of information is typical of this Government and is, as ever, unhelpful."

Labour leader Alan Kelly earlier said: "After the complete confusion over the bonkers two hour rule this week, we now need a clear explanation from the Government on why we are specifically using the two metre rule and if the WHO is recommending that distance." 

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said: "We must be led by the public health advice on this, and if the CMO, after consultation with the NPHET, believes that one metre is now acceptable, then we should implement that with all haste".

However, Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins said the Government has been clear and consistent and that the Taoiseach has said today that "two metres is here to stay".

Speaking on RTÉ's Saturday with Cormac Ó hEadhra, she said that different countries are taking different approaches and for us in Ireland this is the best advice from NPHET.

Ms Higgins said life would be a lot easier if it was one metre instead of two, but the Government is listening to the best medical advice available.

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Concerns over quarantine effects on tourism

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte has called for temperature testing and Covid-19 testing at airports and ports as more effective measures to keep tourism flowing and limit the spread of Covid-19.

Ms Rabbitte expressed serious concerns about the impact of placing mandatory quarantine measures on tourists coming into Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ's Saturday with Cormac Ó hEadhra, the Galway East TD said that making self-quarantine mandatory and then not following it up with resources is questionable.

She suggested re-locating Covid-19 testing centres near Dublin and Cork airports or ports and for tests to be carried out on those arriving.

However, Fine Gael's Emer Higgins told the same programme that "we don't want tourists in Ireland at the moment" and that as we ease restrictions it is in our interests to limit the numbers of people coming into Ireland.

She said "we want to protect people" and that we do not want people arriving into the country jeopardising the progress made in reducing the spread of the virus.

She said the quarantine measures were "not necessarily needed" before now as passengers were at a trickle but with Ryanair looking to start flying again and numbers will likely rise.

Ms Higgins said that it will now be a legal requirement for people arriving into ports and airports to sign forms declaring where they will be staying in isolation for 14 days.

It will be a legal offence not to do so or to give a false address and there are fines of up to €2,500 and imprisonment of up to six months for non-compliance.

Ms Higgins said the declarations will be policed by border management staff who will get the forms afterwards and can make phone calls and make spot checks to ensure people are following the requirements.

She said that there will be no extra resources to police those arriving but this could be reviewed.

Ms Higgins said the self-isolation centre in Citywest may be used to assist passengers arriving in Ireland with limited options for quarantining.

The programme heard that between 28 April and 18 May there was almost 70% of compliance with the form filling when it was not mandatory.

She said the system will run until 18 June but it will be reviewed and is dependent upon public health advice.

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty said the government has been behind the curve on this measure and it is five or six weeks since he raised the issue of self-isolating upon arrival with the Taoiseach.

He said it is not clear if the resources are in place to police the self-quarantine of people arriving into Irish ports and airports.

Mr Doherty said other proposals including the wearing of face coverings on flights and the use of temperature screening at ports and airports should be considered.