Weddings with 100 guests ‘highly unlikely’ to be allowed this summer - Harris

Cocooners in holiday homes cannot return to primary residences and go back, Minister says

Bride, Osnat Baron, and groom, Yaniv Jenger, kiss while wearing face masks during their wedding party in Jerusalem. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Bride, Osnat Baron, and groom, Yaniv Jenger, kiss while wearing face masks during their wedding party in Jerusalem. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

 

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said it is “highly unlikely” weddings with 100 guests could take place this summer because of coronavirus restrictions.

When asked how many people could attend weddings after July, the Minister said he knew a lot of people were taking big decisions as they tried to plan personal events.

“At the moment, I can’t give you a specific number, but what I can say is this, we’re going to work on guidance over the next couple of weeks so we can provide more information in relation to weddings, but if I’m really honest with you, when I talk to public health doctors now, I think it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be in a position where there’d be anything like 100 people being able to be at a wedding in July.”

Mr Harris said the number of guests permitted was likely to be a “very, very small number of people”.

He told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland the Government would try to provide more guidance and “put a number or certainly a range on it”.

“A lot of it will depend on the behaviour of the virus. I know this is causing a lot of angst for a lot of people planning their big day.”

Mr Harris revealed he was due to have been groomsman at a wedding shortly, but that wedding had now been postponed to next year.

He also said people cocooning in their holiday homes cannot return to their primary residences and go back to their holiday homes.

In response to questions about the so-called “phase one” limited lifting of restrictions introduced to combat Covid-19, Mr Harris said the five kilometre rule still applied, although exceptions could be made if medical care was required.

He was given the example of a couple, both aged 79, cocooning since beginning of March in Kerry, who wanted to return to their principle residence in Dublin and then go back to Kerry after a couple of days.

“Simple answer is they definitely cannot go back. This is the real challenge and pain of the virus, that people find themselves having gone to visit relatives and not being able to get back to where they need to, I get that.

“But the reality of the challenge is we need people to keep within five kilometres of where they’re currently residing to stop the spread of the virus.

“Of course there are extenuating circumstances - if you need for care reasons, or medical reasons to get back somewhere else that’s fully understandable, but you can’t obviously move from one house and back again.”

In reply to a question whether a bouncy castle business could reopen from today, the Minster said no, that it was difficult to practice social distancing on a bouncy castle.

Beaches are now open, he said, and people could drive five kilometres to walk on a beach, but they should apply social distancing rules while there.

“The virus is potentially within us and we’re asking people to stay at home as much as possible and extra movement brings extra risk,” he said.

Cemeteries are outdoor areas and should be open from today, depending on local authorities, but again the five kilometre travel limit still applies, he said.

The Government had no plans to nationalise private hospitals, Mr Harris said in response to a question about transplant operations, but a future government could examine that issue, he added.*

It was in the interest of the construction industry “to get this right”, he said of the return to work today. “If they don’t they will be closed down.”

Mr Harris said that today is an important day and that he was both pleased and nervous about phase one of the easing of restrictions. Mr Harris said he was pleased that the efforts of the Irish people had brought us this far, but nervous because the virus had not gone away.

There needed to be a “collective sense of cop on”, he added.

Just because a place was open did not mean one needed to go there, he said, but if people did they must practice social distancing and hand washing.

“If we get the next three weeks right it means we will have found a way to live safely with the virus. We will be watching the figures.”

Mr Harris said progress was “in our hands” and the country could move forward if “we don’t get ahead of ourselves.

“We’ve stuck with testing and tracing, we’ve got to keep working on it and it will be a major focus for the HSE.”

*This article was amended on May 18th 2019 to correct an error in which the word public was used instead of private