#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 3°C Monday 29 November 2021
Advertisement

Unwinding of Covid-19 restrictions to begin next week, says Minister McGrath

The live entertainment industry has expressed anger over a date for reopening not being finalised.

Image: PA Images

Updated Aug 30th 2021, 3:15 PM

THE UNWINDING OF the remaining Covid-19 restrictions will begin next week, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath has confirmed. 

The Covid Cabinet sub-committee is currently meeting to discuss the of the government’s new roadmap for lifting restrictions, with a full Cabinet meeting taking place tomorrow.

A formal announcement will be made during a live address by the Taoiseach tomorrow afternoon.

Speaking on his way into the sub committee meeting a short time ago, McGrath said the final easing of Covid measures will begin next week.

He said there will not be any “big declaration” from the Taoiseach tomorrow that the battle with Covid is over, “because it is not,” he added. 

However, he said there will be a move away “in a gradual sense from a rules and regulations based system” with the emphasis shifting to a “personal responsibility” approach.

McGrath said he is confident that from next week “we can start to make progress in unwinding”, which he said will happen on a phased basis over a number of weeks, into October.

There will be an early return of communions, confirmations, as well as many indoor activities that have been closed now for a number of months. Transport is also to return to full capacity on 1 September.

A level of uncertainty does remain, said McGrath, who highlighted that the government will have to retain the right to change their approach “to reflect the circumstances as we face them, if the circumstances change in a significant way”. 

The government will “have to respond to that”. It would only be prudent that they do so in order to protect the public health, said the minister.

The government trusts the public, said McGrath, stating that they “have done all that we have asked of them”.

Speaking to reporters earlier, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said most Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted by October.

Ryan said that he expects most Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted in October, while September will see a more “flexible” approach.

Staggered opening and closing times for hospitality, and a staggered return to offices would “make sense”, Ryan added.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said there is much to be optimistic about. He told reporters that the public should remain vigilant. The minister said they are keeping a close eye on rising cases in Northern Ireland and Scotland. 

Live events

The comments come as representatives of the live events industry expressed “anger and frustration” that a date for reopening, as part of that roadmap, has not yet been finalised.

Among the sectors that the Government will be discussing easing restrictions for are the events and entertainment sector, nightclubs, hospitality, international travel, the return to offices, and sacraments such as communions and confirmations.

The Event Industry Alliance (EIA) said this morning that they called for the full reopening of indoor and outdoor events for the fully vaccinated, along with other industry supports. 

A meeting between stakeholders and Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Culture Minister Catherine Martin was held earlier this morning.

In a statement following the meeting, the group said:

“Despite the EIA specifically writing to Government in advance of this meeting, highlighting our sectors’ expectations, and requesting a confirmed reopening date for full capacity events, and a strategy to achieve same – the Government failed to provide either.”

“We continue to be disappointed and frustrated at the total lack of urgency on the part of Government for the reopening of the Event Industry, which represents 35,000 people and is worth 3.5 billion to the Irish economy. This is despite being the only sector mandated to remain closed for nearly 18 months, far beyond any other industry or sector within Ireland. ”

‘Very positive’ engagement

Speaking following the meeting, Minister Catherine Martin said there was “very positive engagement”. She said she optimistic that a phased reopening of live music will commence in early September.

The Minister said the government will provide the live entertainment sector with “specific dates” for reopening on Tuesday.

Martin added that vaccine certs will initially be required for indoor events. The Taoiseach confirmed last week that certs will not be required for outdoor events. 

The sector has been largely shut throughout the pandemic, with bosses calling on Government to allow it to return as soon as possible.

Asked about Electric Picnic, she said ongoing engagement was happening with the relevant government departments. 

Meanwhile, the Music & Entertainment Association of Ireland has said that the roadmap to be announced tomorrow must confirm reopening dates and deliver the plan to achieve full capacity and supports.

“Ensuring the full reopening of the industry to 100% capacity, guaranteeing personal supports, and creating and extending existing supports, will prove Government’s commitment to this industry as declared by an Taoiseach. 

“It is vital that the Government commits to its understanding of the challenges facing this sector, and delivers solutions in the next two weeks,” the group said.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

Specific dates due

It comes after Minister Simon Coveney told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland earlier today that “the Government wants to open up, and to do that as safely as we can.”

“One thing we will definitely do tomorrow is give people specific dates so they can plan their businesses and lives around dates in the future.

“That’s what the industry is asking for,” he said. 

Dan McDonnell, chairman of the Entertainment Industry Alliance, said the sector wants to reopen no later than September.

He said: “What we’re expecting today, and what we outlined in writing last week, is a safe reopening date as early as possible in September.

Not being pushed to the end of September, and there’s no reason why we can’t open immediately with the use of a vaccine cert.

“What we’re pushing for is a safe reopening, for the fully vaccinated to attend full capacity, indoor and outdoor events immediately, to be honest, because we’ve been waiting long enough.”

He called for “continued meaningful engagement” from Government with the sector.

“After 17 months, it’s taken us quite a while to get them to the table. And we want to make sure that this isn’t a ‘tick the box’ exercise, that it’s actually the start of proper meaningful engagement for our sector,” he said.

 

Green party leader Eamon Ryan confirmed on Sunday that public transport is to return to 100% capacity from Wednesday.

Communions and confirmations are also set to be given the go-ahead this month.

In a statement on Friday, the Government also said it would engage with the organisers of Electric Picnic over the weekend, with Martin saying she was exploring “all possible options” for the music festival to go ahead.

The Chief Medical Officer has said he would not have concerns about the event going ahead from a public health perspective, if it is limited to only the fully vaccinated.

The latest figures show that 88.1% of Irish adults are now fully vaccinated, among the highest rates in Europe.

Read next:

COMMENTS (49)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel