Firstly, I would like to say that I fully understand how important activities such as yoga are for people's physical and mental health, particularly in the winter months.
As you will be aware, Ireland has moved to level 5 of the Government’s medium-term strategy for dealing with COVID-19, Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19. This Plan sets out 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. Each level outlines what is permitted for social or family gatherings, work and public transport, bars, hotels and restaurants, exercise activities and religious services.
The Plan reflects a careful consideration of the impact of the introduction of restrictions on employment and livelihoods, keeping as many businesses open as possible at different stages, while acknowledging that some businesses and services are critical.
As I'm sure you 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.
At level 5 of the Plan, people are asked to stay at home, with certain exceptions, and must exercise within 5km of home. Exercise and sporting amenities have been closed in order to reduce the person-to-person contacts which allow the virus to spread. No matches or other sporting events may be held with the exception of professional elite sports and senior inter-county gaelic games and horse and greyhound racing, which may continue behind closed doors. All other training activities should be individual only. It is possible to meet with 1 other household in an outdoor setting which is not a home or garden, such as a park, including for the purpose of exercise.
The Government recognises that there are many aspects of normal life that have been altered by the emergence of COVID-19, and the response that has been required. It also recognises that these changes are difficult for many people. However, it is the case at present that many of the things which we have previously taken for granted - such as yoga classes, but also eating out, attending church, travelling abroad freely - are no longer accessible in the same way due to the risks that they pose and the ease with which this virus spreads in particular conditions.
The Government's guidelines for exercise and sporting events at all levels of the Plan are available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/resilience-recovery-2020-2021-plan-for-living-with-covid-19/. Level 5 guidance from Sport Ireland is available at: https://www.sportireland.ie/news/return-to-sport-expert-group-issues-guidance-to-sports-sector