By Cate McCurry and Dominic McGrath, PA
A further 2,950 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed on Monday, as the Taoiseach said he would like to see theatres and gig venues staying open despite fresh restrictions.
The new measures, designed to curb the spread of Covid-19 amid high rates of the virus, will take effect tomorrow on Tuesday and last until early January.
Nightclubs will close and there will be a maximum of 50 per cent capacity at entertainment, cultural, community and sporting events.
On Monday Micheál Martin said: “We don’t want people taking a financial hit in terms of organising concerts and events.
“We want theatres to be kept open, we want artists still performing, and I believe the nature of targeted supports should be such that we can enable concerts like this to take place and also that they should be viable for participants.”
Face masks and face coverings provide another layer of protection in our defence against #COVID19.
They help to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, especially in indoor settings where the risk is higher.
Please make sure that your mask covers your nose, mouth and chin. pic.twitter.com/U4lEfizVvT
— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) December 5, 2021
Mr Martin described it as “one sector that has suffered more than most, and we don’t want concerts cancelled”.
Indicating that further Cabinet discussions will take place, he told reporters: “The challenge then is, can we make up the losses for those who are putting on shows.”
Culture Minister Catherine Martin acknowledged the pressure the industry is under, speaking alongside Mr Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle.
“I absolutely understand it is not financially viable for them to be at 50 per cent capacity, but that’s the public health advice.
“So my focus is on now getting supports in place, a scheme that means they can keep their doors open even at reduced capacity. I’d hope to be in a position to announce something in the coming days on that,” she said.
I understand today's decision following NPHET advice is a huge blow to the entertainment sector already hurting
I’ve secured an extra €25m to support live entertainment, doubling Budget22's to €50m
My officials will discuss its implementation w/stakeholders asap
— Catherine Martin TD (@cathmartingreen) December 3, 2021
Mr Martin said the Government was waiting for the latest information on the new Omicron variant of coronavirus.
“There’s a lot of international work going on right now in relation to the Omicron variant and I think we do have to wait to see the outcome of that work in terms of how infectious is it, how virulent is it, to what degree will it damage and create illnesses and what amount of vaccine escape is there or what protection will the vaccines give us.”
“It is different to last year, because of the vaccination situation,” Mr Martin said.
Ireland has one of the highest rates of vaccine uptake in Europe.
Earlier, the Department of Education reversed controversial instructions which said that pupils who refuse to wear masks should be refused entry to primary schools.
If you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 but are fully vaccinated and have no symptoms we will register you for antigen COVID-19 tests. Close contacts who have symptoms or who aren't vaccinated need a PCR test. More: https://t.co/WLKc1oj2fc#StaySafe | #ForUsAll pic.twitter.com/RbgT6KsL3P
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) December 6, 2021
New advice on Monday said children in third class and above should not be excluded from lessons “in the first instance” for refusing to wear a face covering.
Schools have been urged to “engage pragmatically and sensitively” with parents, and in incidents where no progress is made then the department will provide further support.
The fresh advice comes after primary schools were sent instructions last Tuesday to refuse pupils in third class who went to school with no masks.
There was widespread criticism over the language used in the memo and that there was no lead-in time for schools.
The new guidance says parents are encouraged to “work with schools in a spirit of partnership and co-operation”.
Louise Tobin, principal of St Joseph’s Primary School in Tipperary, welcomed the new guidance.
Ms Tobin, a member of Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN), said: “The information that came out late Tuesday evening was suggesting that if children didn’t comply or their parents didn’t wish them to comply with the mask-wearing, then they would not be allowed entry to school.
“That was something that we didn’t feel comfortable with.
“We needed further explanation on how indeed were we going to manage this.
“At the end of the day we would never want to exclude a child from their education and from school.”