Minister warns delay to easing restrictions on live events would be ‘unacceptable’

State’s public health team cautions that high threshold will have to be met before rules lifted

Wild Youth at July’s pilot festival in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Wild Youth at July’s pilot festival in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

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Any move to put off easing restrictions until the vast majority of people over 16 are vaccinated would lead to an unacceptable delay for the live events sector, the Minister for Culture has warned Coalition colleagues.

The State’s public health team has said that a high threshold will have to be met in terms of Covid-19 vaccinations and other criteria before all legal restrictions can be lifted.

The National Public Health Emergency Team has written to Government and said that more than 90 per cent of people over the age of 16 would have to be vaccinated fully before the next exit from pandemic measures can be considered.

Furthermore, other criteria would have to be met such as all indicators being stable or improving in terms of incidence and case numbers. This would mean that it will be October before any major changes happen, although the Cabinet Covid-19 subcommittee which meets today will compile final recommendations to be agreed at a full Cabinet meeting next week.

It is understood that Minister for Culture Catherine Martin told Government figures on Thursday evening that waiting for 90 per cent vaccination threshold to be passed would lead to an unacceptable delay for reopening of the music, arts and live events sectors.

Ms Martin will push for the full reopening of indoor events for vaccinated people and the reopening of indoor arts, drama and dance classes in September.

Under the proposals, arrangements could also be made in September for unvaccinated people to be admitted to events on production of a negative PCR or antigen test.

Public health officials will update the Government on the latest Covid-19 trends and several Cabinet sources say they are keen to get clarity on the exact timing for reopening of certain sectors like live entertainment.

Some Ministers are to push for any remaining businesses which are closed – such as bingo halls, bowling alleys, yoga and dance studios – to be reopened for all people who have been vaccinated.

It is also understood that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will seek an update on whether there is any public health reason not to open such businesses to the vaccinated or recovered.

State chief medical officer Tony Holohan said the risk of vaccinated people transmitting the disease is ‘very small’. File photograph: The Irish Times
State chief medical officer Tony Holohan said the risk of vaccinated people transmitting the disease is ‘very small’. File photograph: The Irish Times

The discussion of reopening of businesses before October for those who are vaccinated comes after comments by State chief medical officer Tony Holohan earlier this week.

Asked whether an outdoor event such as Electric Picnic could go ahead if it was only for vaccinated people, Dr Holohan replied he would not have concerns from a public health point of view in such a situation.

The risk of vaccinated people transmitting the disease is “very small”, he said. “We wouldn’t have concerns about that if it could be achieved.”

Officials are also likely to discuss any potential vaccine booster campaign which could be rolled out through the autumn and winter.

After the Cabinet Covid-19 subcommittee meeting, a full Cabinet gathering will be held next week detailing the roadmap for sustainable reopening of activities in the live entertainment, culture and arts sectors. The Government is also likely to address regulations for indoor and outdoor events and will look at the advice around returning to work.

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