THE Taoiseach's office has clarified that up to 50 people can attend indoor cultural events in theatre venues such as plays, shows and concerts following major confusion sparked by the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
Micheál Martin's department said on Thursday morning that following consultation with Arts Minister Catherine Martin and Mr Donnelly museums, cinemas, theatres and galleries will be "controlled environments" where up to 50 people can attend, provided physical distancing is observed and protective measures taken.
A statement from the Department of the Taoiseach said: "Following consultation with the Ministers of Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht and the Minister for Health, the following clarification applies to measures introduced with respect to the cultural sector:
"Businesses/services such as museums, cinemas, theatres and art galleries are deemed to be controlled environments, with appropriate protective measures in place such as physical distancing between people. These venues can continue to operate where appropriate physical distancing and all other protective measures can continue to be maintained. Individual groupings attending these venues must be limited to six people from no more than 3 households. Overall attendance must adhere to an overall limit of 50 people.
"All other indoor cultural events are subject to the 6 person maximum rule. All outdoor events are subject to the new limits of 15. These events are deemed as mass gatherings where there is a concentration of people at a specific location for a specific purpose over a set period of time. These types of events provide opportunities for the virus to spread."
It comes after Mr Donnelly caused major confusion for the public and businesses when he incorrectly claimed that only six people could attend indoor concerts and events.
“If it’s an indoor concert the answer is no more than six people,” Mr Donnelly said at a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon.
“What I can tell you is that the guidance for the next 25 days is no more than six meeting indoors. If it’s to your house, it’s your family plus six visitors. If it’s any of us outside or rather out of our houses - but indoors - it’s six, so in a cafe or a gallery or whatever you want. And if it’s outdoors it’s no more than 15 except for sporting events which have been given an exception.”
This was despite the Government earlier officially advising that up to 50 people could attend such organised gatherings provided there is social distancing.
The Department of Health on Wednesday night spent hours insisting Mr Donnelly’s claim that no more than six people could attend organised indoor event in theatres, such as concerts, was correct.
But this was then contradicted by a Government spokesperson who said the public health advice was that 50 people could attend such organised events provided social distancing was observed. For outdoor concerts and events, a maximum of 15 people can attend, the spokesperson clarified.
In a further sign of the confusion within Government over the rules for arts and culture events, the Department of Health issued two statements to Independent.ie on Thursday morning - one at 0.51am and another at 9.47am - claiming that theatres would have to apply to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for an exemption to the six-person rule.
“A small number of exemptions for theatres may be made on a case by case basis following discussion with the Dept of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, subject to a maximum of 50 people,” the Department said.