On 27 November the Government agreed the approach for easing restrictions, including a phased move to Level 3 nationally, with a number of exceptions in place for the Christmas period. The exceptions for the Christmas period are designed to support people to have a meaningful Christmas, albeit different to other years. The main objective is to stay safe and keep the COVID-19 numbers down so that we can maintain the lowest possible level of restrictions into the New Year.
In line with the Plan for Living with COVID-19 the Government has, in recent months, framed restrictions to account for periods where there is low incidence of the disease, with isolated clusters and low community transmission, through to situations where there is high or rapidly increasing incidence, widespread community transmission and the pandemic is escalating rapidly in Ireland and globally. Throughout this period the Government has made special provision for weddings in view of the importance of these occasions to couples and the level of planning that is involved for couples and their families.
In certain settings, such as weddings, higher noise levels due to music, can force people into close proximity, requiring them to raise their voices or shout to communicate thus increasing the risk of spreading virus to others. Such activity presents a higher risk of transmission of Covid-19. Accordingly, the Government decided that no live or loud music is permitted at weddings and this is reflected in Fáilte Ireland's current guidelines.
I understand the difficulties these restrictions pose for couples on their special day and the impact on musicians and bands. A range of measures was announced as part of Budget 2021 to support the arts and culture sectors and in particular the music and entertainment sectors. In Ireland, the Government provides primary support for the arts, including the music sector, through the Arts Council. Government funding to the Arts Council in 2021 will amount to €130m which is an increase of 62% over the amount initially allocated for 2020. Much of this funding is being allocated to the music sector, including to many who have never before received funding from the Council.
In addition to the significant increase in Arts Council funding, the Government has allocated €50 million specifically for live entertainment in 2021 and this will include measures for the commercial entertainment sector. Officials in my Department are engaged in a consultation process to allow stakeholders have an input into how this funding will be disbursed. The operation of the pilot Live Performance Support Scheme, which operated during the autumn and will shortly be completed, will provide insights for the allocation of the funding next year.
The response to and the demand for the Music Industry Stimulus Package and the pilot Live Performance Support Scheme, which was far in excess of what was anticipated, will also inform the Department in this regard.
There are a number of financial supports, training and guidance in place by Government to help business mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and work safely. Details of these can be accessed at the following link: