I propose to take Questions Nos. 309, 310, 313 and 315 together.
The guidance set out in the Government Plan for Living with COVID-19 specifies that no exercise or dance classes are allowed indoors at Levels 3, 4 or 5. The guidance precludes any indoor gathering takings place at Levels 3, 4, and 5 and to date no exemptions have been made for stage schools, drama classes, exercise classes, gymnastics classes, artistic activities, athletic activities or any type of dance class whether jazz, or ballet or step-dancing.
Given the current epidemiological situation, it has been necessary to put in place very significant restrictions to arrest the current trajectory of COVID-19 and break transmission chains. This means asking people to stay at home and eliminating as much activity and contacts as is possible to ensure that opportunities for the virus to transmit are minimised, while allowing essential activities to continue. It also means minimising discretionary activities including cultural activities. Information on the public health measures currently in place in relation to the different Levels can be found at the gov.ie website.
The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No.8) Regulations 2020 give effect to level 5 restrictions under the Plan. The Regulations list essential retail and essential services which may operate under level 5 restrictions. This list does not include private or commercial dance classes. Under the Regulations, essential education encompasses primary and post-primary schools, and higher and further education where remote learning is not possible. Where a service provider considers that they fall into the essential education category e.g. as part of the national curriculum or as part of a specific, state-sponsored course of study, they should refer to the Department of Education’s guidance in relation to the operation of education services under Level 5 restrictions.
Similarly, The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No.7) Regulations, which applied when the country was under Level 3 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19, did not allow any exercise or dance classes, regardless of the form e.g. Irish, ballet, jazz etc.
I fully understand the benefits that activities such as dance bring to people's overall health and well-being. The measures in place to suppress the disease transmission are intended to minimise the risks to public health while striking a balance in prioritising and protecting some activities over others.