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Campaign group to seek NPHET's 'specific concerns' about live events in meeting with Health Minister

Confusion arose earlier this month following conflicting messages on numbers permitted at cultural events.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly
Image: Julien Behal via RollingNews.ie

THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN for the Arts is to seek clarity on the “specific concerns” of the Department of Health and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) regarding live events during a meeting with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. 

Members of the campaign group are hoping to meet with Donnelly and his officials on Monday. 

This follows days of confusion earlier this month regarding the numbers allowed at arts and cultural events after the government announced new Covid-19 restrictions. 

An initial statement on 19 August from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht indicated 50 people would still be allowed at most indoor events, with 200 allowed at outside events. 

However, the government later clarified that outdoor events are, in fact, to be limited to just 15 people and indoor cultural events to just six people, unless an exemption is granted by officials. 

It was also clarified that museums, cinemas and art galleries can continue to operate at a 50-person limit indoors if physical distancing is employed.  

Individual groupings attending these venues must be limited to six people from no more than three households.

Meeting with Health Minister

The group said it won’t be able to “resolve the many nuanced challenges” faced by the industry in one meeting, but that it hopes the meeting with Donnelly will begin an “ongoing, open and collaborative” dialogue between the industry, the Department of Health and NPHET. 

“What would greatly benefit all sides is for the Department of Health and NPHET to share with us all their concerns around arts experiences and live events that incorporate physical audiences, both indoor and out,” Aileen Galvin of the NCFA steering committee told TheJournal.ie. 

She said if the group can “understand the specific concerns” relating to live events, it will then be able to “task the health and safety experts in our sector to innovate ways to present live experiences that mitigate these health risks to the satisfaction of the Department of Health and NPHET”. 

“There is an opportunity here for government and industry to join together, to share expertise and find solutions,” Galvin said.

If we are given the information to enable us to work through every possible scenario and we still find that there just isn’t a safe way for audiences to take part in live events, we will know that no stone was left unturned and we can focus on ensuring that there are proper, equitable supports in place for those who are not permitted to return to work in order to protect the health of our nation. 

“If we can get professional live events back up and running, the positive impact on the arts and events ecosystem would be colossal,” she said.

Criticism

The confusion surrounding the numbers allowed at indoor and outdoor events over the past month led to heavy criticism from art and cultural groups. 

In a statement on 20 August, the board of EPIC (Event Production Industry Covid-19), which represents 3,500 full-time and 15,000 part-time event industry workers, said the events industry had been left in “limbo”. 

“The industry has been left in limbo over the last number of weeks and the government’s lack of consistency in guidance is having untold negative impact on both the sector and the public,” the group said.

“The industry is already on its knees, and in severe peril, and these repeated miscommunications have caused enormous distress and worry for thousands of events and arts professionals who are trying to get back to work by planning safe, controlled events, strictly in line with government guidance.”

Germany

Last week, a German University launched a series of pop concerts under coronavirus conditions, hoping the mass experiment with 4,000 people could determine whether large events can safely resume.

Well-known singer Tim Bendzko agreed to give three separate performances over the course of the day in eastern city Leipzig, allowing researchers from nearby Halle University to try out different configurations for the gigs.

Only young, healthy volunteers were allowed to attend in a bid to limit infection risks.

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As the audience arrived at the Leipzig Arena concert hall, they were submitted to a temperature check. 

All the participants had to wear masks meeting the high-protection FFP2 standard, as well as an electronic device allowing tracking of their movements within the space.

Using fluorescent disinfectants, the researchers were also able to see which surfaces concert-goers most often touch with their hands.

With reporting by © AFP 2020 

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