Covid-19: Gatherings of up to 5,000 people may be permitted from September

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says cinemas likely to be reopen in August as meaures ease

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

 

Outdoor gatherings of up to 5,000 people may be permitted from September and cinemas could open in August as measures introduced to limit the spread of Covid-19 are eased, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said that if the disease stays suppressed “we could see some smaller outdoor or mass gatherings in September, maybe outdoor cultural events of a few thousand people - 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000, but (it is) unlikely to be more than that.

Mr Varadkar said he had been told cinemas could “operate at a profit” while ensuring customers were socially distanced and that these could reopen in August.

However, he said keeping people 2m apart was tougher for live performances and theaters “so that’s going to be trickier but if it is safe to do so, I will do it”.

Under the Government’s Covid-19 roadmap, theatres, cinemas, nightclubs and casinos can reopen from July 20th but only if social distancing measures can be implemented.

Mr Varadkar and Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan on Tuesday announced a €25 million package of supports to artists and arts organisations and resources for museums and culture workers as they prepare for the unwinding of coronavirus restrictions. The funding is in addition to money previously allocated to the sector.

They said a total of €20 million was being allocated to the Arts Council, bringing its total for the year to €100 million. A further €5 million was being made available for securing the future of cultural and museum spaces and the production of digital art and online performances.

“Over the last few months we have had many days of sorrow and suffering. In times like this we see the true value of culture to society - the books, the films, the songs, the plays - all the different forms of culture that entertain as well as enlighten,” Mr Varadkar said.

“The pandemic hasn’t been easy for our artists and cultural institutions, and I know their livelihoods have been hit hard. So many events have been cancelled, so many places have been forced to close.

“The Government wants to recognise how important culture is to our lives and it wants to match its words with actions.”

Ms Madigan said that the arts sector had “suffered more than most in the crisis and will continue to experience difficult and challenging times long after other sectors have returned to work”.

“Despite this, I am confident that artists and arts organisations across the country can weather this storm and emerge with all the wonderful creativity that is its hallmark.”