The taskforce says many cultural institutions are large, aerated spaces that could allow for more numbers. Sam Boal
attendance numbers

Government's Covid plan could be 'tweaked' to allow arts and entertainment venues open safely, says minister

An arts task force says the Living with Covid plan requires an urgent review.

OFFICIALS ARE ENGAGING on the possibility of modifying the government’s Living with Covid-19 plan to allow for the safe reopening of arts and entertainment venues.

Arts and Culture Minister Catherine Martin said today that she is aware from her engagement with cultural institutions and venues that there are concerns that some levels are too restrictive in terms of attendance numbers permitted, and the closure of some museums.

“There is ongoing engagement with my officials, officials from the Department of Health and the Taoiseach’s Department to see what can be done there,” she said. 

She said negotiations are ongoing at present to see can there be a “tweaking of levels”, so that the “individuality of each venue and cultural institution” can be assessed on its own merits in terms of opening up access.

‘Urgent review of Covid plan’

A report from the government’s arts and culture recovery task force, which was presented to Cabinet by the minister today, finds that the treatment of cultural activities and venues under the various levels of the government’s Living with Covid-19 plan “requires urgent review to better reflect actual circumstances and the particular behaviours of artists, audiences and venues”.

It calls for a representative stakeholders group to be established so that cultural providers can engage with public health experts to design guidance and support mechanisms for the re-introduction of safe public engagement in cultural activity.

The Taoiseach has already indicated that the aim after Level 5 is to reopen the economy under Level 3, with some modifications.

Under Level 3, all museums, galleries and other cultural attractions must remain closed.

Bars or pubs serving food or wet pubs, many of which are also live music venues, can have outdoor dining with an absolute maximum of 15 people.

Under Level 2, museums, cinemas, theatres and art galleries are deemed to be controlled environments, and allowed to open with appropriate protective measures in place such as physical distancing between people.

Individual groupings attending these venues must be limited to six people from no more than three households, while overall attendance must adhere to an overall limit of 50 people.

Musical performances can take place in a theatre subject to compliance with all broader public health guidance. All other indoor cultural events are subject to the SIX person maximum rule. All outdoor events are limited to 15 people.

Chairperson of the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce, Clare Duignan, said the group felt “quite strongly” that there is a need for stakeholders to be brought into the discussion with public health experts in terms of what can reopen.

She said there is great health and safety expertise in the arts sector, stating that for many it is their sole profession.

Large spaces, very limited numbers

Duignan said many cultural institutions “tend to be in large spaces” that are very well aerated, where it is “very easy to control numbers”.

She said workers in the arts sector should be allowed to get around the table with public health experts to talk “some of this through” so it may be “possible to reconsider some of the guidance that is there at present”.

The minister acknowledged that the voice of the arts workers “needs to be heard on this”.

Similar to an expert group that has been established on reopening sports events, there is a need for arts voices to feed into the regulations, said Martin.

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