Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Ceisteanna (772, 909, 910, 911)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

772. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the number and the proportion of Covid-19 transmissions that occurred according to research in churches; and the reason he decided to go beyond all other European countries in terms of church closures. [11231/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

909. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Health the reason churches have not been allowed to reopen for public worship in the same week that schools are allowed to reopen given that no case of Covid-19 has been linked to church attendance and given each church has previously succeeded in practising social distancing and following all guidelines in place. [11767/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Sorca Clarke

Ceist:

910. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health if he has engaged in dialogue with the religious groups on the possibility of opening up places of worship on a restricted basis. [11769/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Sorca Clarke

Ceist:

911. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health the risk assessments with regard to restricted public religious worship that has been conducted; and the risks associated with opening churches and other religious institutions. [11770/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 772, 909 to 911, inclusive, together.

As the Deputies are aware, the public health restrictions at level 5 of the Government's Framework Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with Covid-19 will remain in place until 5 April 2021, when a further review will be conducted. The Framework continues to provide an appropriate mechanism to guide decision-making, and it will continue to be supplemented by more detailed sectoral guidance in relation to measures that apply at each level of the Framework.

On 23 February, the Government published Covid-19 Resilience & Recovery 2021: The Path Ahead which sets out how in-school education and childcare services will be reinstated in a phased manner from 1 March, with staggered return throughout March to be concluded after the Easter break on 12 April. Information on the revised plan is available here – https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c4876-covid-19-resilience-and-recovery-2021-the-path-ahead/?referrer=http://www.gov.ie/ThePathAhead/

The public health measures recognise the need to reduce congregation and interactions between people to reduce the transmission of Covid-19. The number of people allowed to gather in different scenarios in the plan is 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. The measures in place for each level reflect the prevailing disease situation and recognise that we can and must prioritise some activities over others.

At level 5, all non-essential retail, and all non-essential services must remain closed. Information in relation to the current public health measures in place for essential retail and essential services at level 5 is available at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2dc71-level-5/ and https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c9158-essential-services/. Funeral, burial and related services are listed as essential under 'Administrative and Support Activities'.

The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (NO. 10) Regulations 2020 Regulation (S.I. 701 of 2020), sets out the relevant businesses or services under the current public health measures. Statutory Instruments related to the Covid-19 pandemic are available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/1f150-view-statutory-instruments-related-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/

The Deputies may wish to note that, on 18 February, the Taoiseach met with representatives of the Catholic Church to discuss the current level of Covid-19 restrictions and the Church’s desire to return to worship, in particular during the season of Lent and with the approach of Holy Week and Easter. The Taoiseach acknowledged the importance of the Church community in people’s lives at this time of stress and worry. He outlined the ongoing concerns regarding the spread of the virus, particularly the new variants, stressing that any increase at all in mobility can have serious consequences for public health and put pressure on the health service. The Taoiseach said consideration would be given to the concerns raised at the meeting, and it was agreed that a dialogue would be maintained as the situation evolves.