Later than expected Delta peak threatens events sector reopening

Infection levels raise concerns over reopening of live entertainment sector

The peak of the current Covid-19 wave is expected to come later than anticipated, senior officials have been told. Photograph: Atef Safadi/EPA

The peak of the current Covid-19 wave is expected to come later than anticipated, senior officials have been told. Photograph: Atef Safadi/EPA

 

The peak of the current Covid-19 wave is expected to come later than anticipated, senior officials have been told, raising concerns over the reopening of the live entertainment sector and deepening a Coalition row over the matter.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan on Wednesday told a group of officials and political aides that he was “concerned” by the pandemic scenario at present.

The officials were told the current wave was likely to peak later than originally thought, perhaps not until next month, with an associated impact on the healthcare system anticipated.

As she seeks to lock in a reopening date for the entertainment sector, Minister for Culture Catherine Martin has told colleagues that she wants to be part of the Covid-19 Cabinet sub-committee for its meetings on Thursday and next week.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan was progressing this request and “trying to get it over the line”, a source said.

Public health officials believe the Covid-19 situation has deteriorated since senior politicians were last briefed a fortnight ago. However, vaccinations have progressed quickly in recent weeks, which favours a more optimistic outcome overall with a lower peak of infection expected, albeit later than originally projected.

Hospital Report

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU
707 69

Ministers will be briefed on the current situation regarding the disease on Thursday. There will be a full meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) next Wednesday, before advice is sent to Government on how to proceed with the next phase of easing restrictions, due to be announced before the end of the month.

Government sources said there was concern about the State’s high case levels and disease incidence relative to the rest of Europe. A further 1,861 cases were reported on Wednesday. Sources do not expect Nphet to recommend any further easing of restrictions next week.

Disquiet

Many in Government believe the focus will be towards safeguarding the reopening of schools and universities in the coming weeks, and that while there will be a plan sketched out for the reopening of sectors that remain closed, they may have to wait further. There is understood to be disquiet among some Ministers about this.

“Our restrictions are among the toughest and our vaccination levels among the best but we aren’t seeing the benefit of it yet,” a source said.

No date has yet been set for the reopening of the entertainment sector despite Ms Martin telling a meeting of industry stakeholders that she had proposed a plan to other Ministers on the issue.

She said she tried to get the Cabinet Covid-19 sub-committee to agree to dates for reopening at a meeting on August 6th but that this was not approved.

Ms Martin also told the meeting that despite multiple efforts and “countless appeals on behalf of the sector” she could not provide them with a reopening date yet but guaranteed them they were pushing an “open door” with her.

Government sources pushed back against Ms Martin on Wednesday night, saying they were following public health advice with each decision in relation to reopening.

Matt McGranaghan, of the Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland, appealed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin to “show this industry the respect that it deserves” and to allow Ms Martin attend Thursday’s sub-committee meeting.

The sector has also called for business and pandemic supports to be extended until June given the delay in finalising a plan for its reopening.

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