'We want artists still performing' - Taoiseach would like to see venues staying open
The Taoiseach has said he would like to see theatres and gig venues staying open, despite fresh Covid-19 restrictions.
The new measures, designed to curb the spread of Covid-19 amid high rates of the virus, will take effect on Tuesday (December 7) and last until early January.
Nightclubs will close and there will be a maximum of 50 per cent capacity at entertainment, cultural, community and sporting events.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin today said: “We don’t want people taking a financial hit in terms of organising concerts and events.
“We want theatres to be kept open, we want artists still performing and I believe the nature of targeted supports should be such that we can enable concerts like this to take place and also that they should be viable for participants.”
Taoiseach Martin described it as “one sector that has suffered more than most and we don’t want concerts cancelled”.
Indicating that further Cabinet discussions will take place, he told reporters: “The challenge then is, can we make up the losses for those who are putting on shows.”
Culture Minister Catherine Martin acknowledged the pressure the industry is under, speaking alongside the Taoiseach and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle.
“I absolutely understand it is not financially viable for them to be at 50 per cent capacity, but that’s the public health advice.
“So my focus is on now getting supports in place, a scheme that means they can keep their doors open even at reduced capacity. I’d hope to be in a position to announce something in the coming days on that,” she said.
The Taoiseach said the Government was waiting for the latest information on the new Omicron variant of coronavirus.
“There’s a lot of international work going on right now in relation to the Omicron variant and I think we do have to wait to see the outcome of that work in terms of how infectious is it, how virulent is it, to what degree will it damage and create illnesses and what amount of vaccine escape is there or what protection will the vaccines give us.”
“It is different to last year, because of the vaccination situation,” Martin said.
Ireland has one of the highest rates of vaccine uptake in Europe.
Earlier, the Department of Education reversed controversial instructions which said that pupils who refuse to wear masks should be refused entry to primary schools.
New advice on Monday said children in third class and above should not be excluded from lessons “in the first instance” for refusing to wear a face covering.
Schools have been urged to “engage pragmatically and sensitively” with parents, and in incidents where no progress is made then the department will provide further support.
The fresh advice comes after primary schools were sent instructions last Tuesday to refuse pupils in third class who went to school with no masks.
There was widespread criticism over the language used in the memo and that there was no lead-in time for schools.
The new guidance says parents are encouraged to “work with schools in a spirit of partnership and co-operation”.
Louise Tobin, principal of St Joseph’s Primary School in Tipperary, welcomed the new guidance.
Ms Tobin, a member of Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN), said: “The information that came out late Tuesday evening was suggesting that if children didn’t comply or their parents didn’t wish them to comply with the mask-wearing, then they would not be allowed entry to school.
“That was something that we didn’t feel comfortable with.
“We needed further explanation on how indeed were we going to manage this.
“At the end of the day we would never want to exclude a child from their education and from school.”
She said the department has used a more sensitive approach.
“Without guidance, we didn’t really know quite what to do,” Ms Tobin told the Today with Claire Byrne programme.
“Children do not need to wear their masks when they’re outside, which is good to know, that they can have a break from their masks during their breaktime and their lunchtime.
“We don’t need to obviously wear masks while we’re having our lunch during class, that would be impossible.
“We don’t need to wear masks if we’re outdoors for PE, and if we’re inside, well, then there has to be good ventilation and we keep a one-metre distance.
“We don’t have to wear masks while playing sports or singing or playing an instrument.”
She added: “With young children there always has to be the lead-in, you can’t ask young children to manage or deal with something overnight.
“I imagine a lot of children went to bed on Tuesday night thinking all was fine, and woke up Wednesday morning to be told they had to wear a mask.
“I certainly could see levels of anxiety amongst the pupils that were maybe self-conscious about wearing the mask.
“Adults need to explain to them that this is to keep us safer in schools.
“I’m very happy to say that I have full compliance this morning.”
She also said that schools have not secured additional funding to buy extra masks for primary school children.
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