Covid-19 surge after Euro 2020 game to be factored into planning for crowds at events

Martin criticises TD’s use of term ‘medical apartheid’ in relation to mooted indoor dining plans

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that while Ireland’s incidence of Delta variant cases has ‘been quite low’, the Government will ‘have to take on board international developments’ when planning for larger crowds attending sporting and other large events. Photograph: Julien Behal.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that while Ireland’s incidence of Delta variant cases has ‘been quite low’, the Government will ‘have to take on board international developments’ when planning for larger crowds attending sporting and other large events. Photograph: Julien Behal.

 

The Government will have to take account of events such as the Scotland v England Euro 2020 match and the subsequent surge in Covid-19 cases when deciding on its approach to allowing crowds attend sports and other events.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that while Ireland’s incidence of Delta variant cases has “been quite low”, the Government will “have to take on board international developments”.

The surge in cases in Scotland after the football match at Wembley in London on June 18th will inform Irish decisions about opening up sport and other events, he said.

Mr Martin was responding to former minister and Fine Gael TD Richard Bruton, who highlighted the success of recent events including a pilot music festival in Kilmainham, Dublin last weekend.

“I’m wondering whether we are now in a position to make decisions about a more permanent approach to these open air events, where people can safely assemble, having had tests or having been vaccinated,” Mr Bruton asked.

‘Lessons learned’

The Taoiseach acknowledged that there had been a number of events and said: “I think most of the outdoor events, and the indoor events, as well have been well run”. He said an evaluation was taking place.

“Decisions will be taken in respect of lessons learned from those events, and how we can apply those lessons to further events, both outdoor and indoor.”

But Mr Martin added that “you can get a sense in terms of what’s happening in the United Kingdom when you have very large events with large crowds, it can go wrong”.

He said “the Scottish authorities are clear” that the game against England had “a significant impact” on the spread of the Delta variant in Scotland. Public Health Scotland last week said around 1,300 cases related to people who had travelled to London for the match.

“And we know that some of that is in the actually travelling to and from the event, as opposed to the event itself. But again there are lessons to be learned from that,” the Taosieach said. “I think it does lend itself to further analysis.”

‘Appalling phrase’

Mr Martin also defended the Government’s approach in relation to the opening up of indoor dining. He criticised as an “appalling phrase” a description by Independent TD Mattie McGrath of proposals to allow indoor dining for those who are fully vaccinated as “medical apartheid”.

The Taoiseach insisted that “the fundamental objective of all public health advice we receive is to protect lives and livelihoods”.

“It is up to Government to operationalise that and we are in discussions at the moment with the hospitality sector with a view to having a plan ready by the 19th of this month.”

He added that “you only have to look at what is happening in South Africa in respect of the impact of the Delta variant to see how we have to take these things seriously” as he hit out at the “divisiveness of the partisan political debate” in the Dáil.

The Taoiseach said people could disagree with the public health advice but “you should not be casting aspersions and using language such as ‘medical apartheid’”.

Mr McGrath insisted that “that is what it is”.

Mr Martin insisted that the only objective was to protect the unvaccinated.

“Why would we want unvaccinated people to get the virus?” he asked. “Why would we want to throw caution to the wind? Is that OK? Is that what we’re actually saying?”