Following the Government announcement yesterday, there is now a two-step reopening plan as well as the prospect of lifting of all arts and culture sector specific guidelines being removed by 22 October. Full details of what happens at each stage can be found in the plan for the Government’s response to this next and final phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, Reframing the challenge, continuing our recovery and reconnecting.
Reopening Forum 7 September, 11am
Theatre Forum held a Reopening Forum on Tuesday 7 September on Zoom.
Our panel included: Sharon Barry and Deirdre Mahony, Department of Tourism, Culture Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media; Paul Fadden, Ticketsolve; Pete Jordan, Slua; Nick Anton, Dunamaise Arts Centre; Liam Fitzgerald, Bord Gais Energy Theatre/AIST; Cian O’Brien, Project Arts Centre/NCFA
Summary of the plan’s key dates and changes
The plan is structured around two key September dates and the lifting of all sector-specific conditions by 22 October.
From 6 September
An either/or approach of a new % capacity option where all patrons are immune or the existing current limit of patron numbers is in place from next Monday, 6 September.
Cinemas and theatres & Organised indoor events and mass gatherings
Cinemas and theatres as well as organised indoor events and mass gatherings will have capacity limits of 60% of venue capacity where all patrons are immune (fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 within previous 6 months), or accompanied minors (under 18), in line with sectoral guidance. Where patrons have mixed immunity status, there will be no change to the current limits (50 patrons) during September.
Question: From 6 September, is social distancing and masks indoors still required with the increased capacity of 60%?
Answer: It is 60% of capacity with a fully vaccinated audience. The remaining 40% of space will be used to socially distance the 60% of patrons as much as possible so the 2m rule will no longer apply in this context. Mask wearing will still be required.
What about vaccination certs/vaccination status of patrons?
Should arts and cultural organisations capture vaccination status at the point of sale or require proof of vaccination status at some point in the customer journey?
Answer: Ticketsolve advised us that while it is possible to ask patrons at the point of purchase their vaccination status they believe this step should be avoided from a GDPR perspective. They advise that purchasers will need to be informed that in order to gain entry into the venue, all seat holders will need to present a valid vaccination certificate or a cert showing they have recovered from Covid in the last 6 months. Ideally these certs should be scannable using the Government App. You can read a full and detailed blog on all of this from Ticketsolve.
Question: From 6 September, can non-professional events now go ahead such as amateur/community drama and musical society groups?
Answer: Non-professional events are now allowed to go ahead indoors with 60% capacity where all patrons are immune (fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 within previous 6 months).
Question: From 6 September, can organised indoor events now happen in venues that are not deemed registered theatres?
Answer: Yes they can take place in venues that are not deemed registered theatres, however it must be a seated venue.
Question: What about young audience members (under 18)?
Answer: From 6 September, the 60% capacity is for vaccinated or immune patrons or accompanied minors (under 18). If it is a family attending a performance, then the advised approach is to borrow from the hospitality guidelines which allow for a group booking of up to 6 adults and 9 children. However there has been no clear provision made in relation to schools attending performances. Pre-October 22 the rules that are currently in place for theatres and cinemas remain unchanged for unvaccinated patrons.
Post-October 22 it is hoped that all restrictions will be removed.
Organised outdoor events and mass gatherings
Organised outdoor events and mass gatherings can take place with capacity limits of 75% of venue capacity where all patrons are immune (fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 within previous 6 months), or accompanied minors (under 18), in line with sectoral guidance. Where patrons have mixed immunity status, the capacity limit will be 50%, subject to appropriate protective measures including social distancing between groups and face masks.
From 20 September
Importantly, workplaces in all sectors can reopen from 20 September with employers paying particular attention to the relevant HSE Work Safely Protocol. Review the current version of this protocol and we’ll advise you immediately there’s a new edition.
Question: What is the situation with employees and vaccine status – has this changed?Answer: Employees will be treated separately to audience members so their vaccination status will not impact on capacity. All employees/workplaces will still fall under the Work Safely Protocol. This will be updated to reflect the new guidelines.
Return to workplaces
Attendance at work for specific business requirements may commence on a phased and staggered attendance basis from 20 September.
On the same date, indoor group activities, including classes and workshops, can start up again also with a dual approach of a higher capacity limit where everyone attending has immunity or operating in pods pods when people in the group have mixed immunity status.
Organised indoor group activities
Organised indoor group activities (sports, arts, culture, dance classes) can take place with capacity limits of 100 people (with appropriate protective measures) where all patrons are immune (fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 within previous 6 months),or accompanied minors (under 18). Where patrons have mixed immunity status, pods of up to 6 participants will be permitted (excluding adult leaders/teachers). Multiple pods will be permissible subject to protective measures. Number of pods will have regard the size of venue and substantial social distance between individual pods.
The Arts Council have guidelines for children. These are currently being updated to reflect the new guidelines. Post-October 22 it is hoped that all restrictions will be removed.
Organised outdoor group activities
Restrictions on outdoor group activities for participants will be removed. After so many months and false starts, the prospect of restrictions other than general public safety ones being lifted from 22 October is heartening. Let’s hope and work to ensure everything goes according to plan.