Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (227, 266)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

227. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Health if he will consider adjusting public health guidelines surrounding weddings by which 150 persons can attend a church ceremony yet only 50 can attend a reception afterwards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26024/20]

View answer

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

266. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the new regulations in relation to christenings in Dublin; the number permitted to attend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26187/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 227 and 266 together.

As the Deputy is aware, on Tuesday 15 September 2020 the Government published it's medium term plan Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 which frames Ireland's approach to managing and living with COVID-19 in a range of areas over the next 6 - 9 months.

The plan sets out five levels of response, each with a number of measures designed to help us all lower COVID-19 transmission, and setting out what is permitted at that moment in time. It aims to allow society and businesses to be able to operate as normally as possible, while continuing to suppress the virus. The plan is framed to account for periods which there is a low incidence of the disease, with isolated clusters and low community transmission, through to situations where there is a high or rapidly increasing incidence, widespread community transmission and the pandemic is escalating rapidly in Ireland and globally. It recognises the need for society and business to be allowed to continue as normally as possible and is designed so that either national or county level restrictions can be applied.

Each level outlines what is permitted for social or family gatherings, work and public transport, bars, hotels and restaurants, exercise activities and religious services. Any measure included at any level in this plan is underpinned by expert advice and recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

The number of people allowed to gather in different scenarios in the Government Framework are based on a review of international practice and the judgment of public health experts. It seeks to balance the risks of different types of gatherings against the desire to allow normal activities to proceed in so far as possible.

As I am sure the Deputy can appreciate, COVID-19 spreads when individuals and groups come into close contact with one another, enabling the virus to move from one person to another. COVID-19 is infectious in a person with no symptoms, or for the period of time before they develop symptoms. For this reason, we are all asked to be extra careful when socialising and working with others. For now, we must act like we have the virus to protect those around us from infection.

There are exemptions for weddings and funerals at all Levels. This is due to the particular significance these events have for individuals and society more broadly. Depending on the level of the Plan in place in a county at a given time, the numbers permitted to attend a wedding can be up to 100.

All counties except Dublin are currently at Level 2 of the Plan for living with COVID-19. Dublin is currently at Level 3 of the Plan for living with Covid-19. The public health measures at both levels will remain in operation until 9 October 2020, at which point the situation will be reviewed by the Government, based on the status of the virus and the pertinent public health advice. Further information on the public health measures in place under Level 2 can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/18e18-level-2/. Information on the public health measures currently in place under Level 3 can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/cf1f3-special-measures-in-place-for-dublin/