The live entertainment and music sectors are in danger of collapsing following prolonged restrictions and a clear plan for their return is needed, Minister for Culture and Arts Catherine Martin has warned the Government.
In a letter sent to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, seen by the Irish Times, Ms Martin calls for “active engagement” on how to reopen the sectors using digital Covid certificates or some form of Covid-19 testing.
It is understood that the issue was brought up at Cabinet this week, which saw the return of indoor hospitality, with Ms Martin firmly making the point that a reopening plan was needed for the sectors.
Sources said she was backed up by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and that Taoiseach Micheál Martin committed to examining the issue in the coming month.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan yesterday raised the prospect of a further easing of Covid-19 restrictions, saying such steps “may not be far away” with vaccinations set to intensify in the coming weeks.
“We’re coming close let’s say to the autumn time, starting to think about the resumption of winter activities, obviously things like college and school,” Dr Holohan told a media briefing at the Department of Health.
“What are the things we would move on and what are the things that we think might need to stay place? Those are the things we’re giving consideration to.”
He said the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) would consider the matter next week and that any recommendations would be made “at some point after that” to Mr Donnelly.
Nphet yesterday reported 1,408 further Covid-19 cases, with 152 patients now in hospital, including 26 in intensive care.
However, following the easing of restrictions around weddings and baptism attendances, Government sources indicated there would be no further easing of Covid-19 restrictions until at least the end of August.
In her letter, which was circulated in recent days to a small number of Ministers, Ms Martin said a point had been reached where “it is critical for the live entertainment sector that parameters are set within which they can plan for a safe resumption of activity, based on some combination of vaccination and immunity status and the use of PCR and rapid testing”.
“Given the length of time the live entertainment and music sector businesses have been closed and the lack of a reopening path to allow businesses to plan, the sector and many businesses are now in danger of collapse and will have an ongoing requirement for significant levels of sectoral subvention via the exchequer,” she said.
“It is essential both for the sector and the exchequer that consideration is given to the manner in which a return to sustainable and economically viable levels of activity can safely be achieved.”
While trial music events have taken place mainly outdoors, the majority of the industry has been on hiatus since shutting down in March of last year when the pandemic reached Ireland.
Ms Martin said the trial performances had “demonstrated that events can be safely run with 2m and 1m social distancing” but that while increased capacity for outdoor events was welcome, these provided “very limited opportunities for the return to activity for the live entertainment sector, and is not commercially sustainable for businesses”.
She requested “that further consideration will be given on how access to live entertainment events – both indoors and outdoors – can be provided for based on the presentation of a valid PCR test”.She asked Mr Donnelly to “nominate a senior official from your department to liaise on this matter”.