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Dublin: 21°C Saturday 13 August 2022

Government issues new guidance for places of worship to accommodate more than 50 people at services

The guidance involves dividing premises into subgrouping of no more than 50 people in each.

Image: Sam Boal

THE GOVERNMENT HAS issued new guidance for places of worship in order for them to safely accommodate more than 50 people at an indoor service, including dividing the premises into subgroupings. 

Cabinet has today said it reviewed the guidance, which state that an assessment should be carried out for each premises to determine how many can attend within the requirements of social distancing.

It decided that where the size of the premises allows for a capacity of greater than 50 people – which is the current limit for indoor gatherings – places of worship may exceed that limit subject to certain rules. 

The conditions involve adhering to social distancing at all times as well as dividing the premises into distinct sections, cordoned or marked appropriately, of not more than 50 people in each section

Each section should also have its own entrance and exit route as well as having a distance from other sections of four metres. 

Premises must be well-ventilated and there should be no movement between sections before, during, or after the service.

The latest guidance comes following criticism from some religious leaders that the indoor gathering limit should not apply to places of worship which can safely accommodate bigger numbers. 

The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin had criticised public health advice which onlyallowed for a maximum of 50 people in attendance at Mass while “large retail outlets [were] brimming with people”. 

Days later, the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said an exception would be made to the 50-person limit for mass gatherings in Phase Three for places of worship.

This evening Martin welcomed the latest measures and said he is confident churches will work diligently to adhere to public health guidance. 

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A statement said that “while these norms do limit a more joyful return to the public celebration of the sacraments people have longed for, they are important steps forward and vital for the common good of all”.

The latest advice for places of worship also notes that account must be taken regarding the risk of congregation by people outside before and after any services, with arrangements to be made allowing for staggered exiting after ceremonies.

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