Government to explore use of PCR and antigen tests for reopening of arts and events sector

Government to explore use of PCR and antigen tests for reopening of arts and events sector

Musicians from Cork City and County gathered for a street march and 'silent protest' in Cork City on Wednesday to highlight that professional musicians have been locked out of work for 15 months and have no road-map to recovery. Picture: Larry Cummins

Catherine Martin said she was developing a re-opening plan for the arts and events sector "at the earliest possible date".

The Tourism and Culture Minister has written to the Department of Health to see if PCR and antigen tests could be used to reopen live entertainment, and also announced changes to two key schemes that support the live entertainment sector, while stating she hoped to have a plan to reopen by the end of August.

In a statement issued on Friday, Ms Martin "reaffirmed her commitment to the full return of all live entertainment at the earliest possible date, having regard to public health developments".

Extension of live performance support scheme

She extended the deadline for using the live performance support scheme (LPSS) funding to the end of October, taking into account the current restrictions, and announced a new strand of funding for businesses with turnovers between €15,000 and €20,000. This stream will provide grants of €1,500 for businesses who had business costs of at least €2,000 between April 1, and May 31, 2021. 

Tourism and Culture Minister Catherine Martin is said to be working with her Cabinet colleagues to provide certainty for the sector around a reopening plan 'at the earliest possible date'.File picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Tourism and Culture Minister Catherine Martin is said to be working with her Cabinet colleagues to provide certainty for the sector around a reopening plan 'at the earliest possible date'.File picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins

The minister is said to be working with her Cabinet colleagues to provide certainty for the sector around a reopening plan "at the earliest possible date".

"To this end, and following the opening of indoor hospitality which she has led on with An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, she has written to the Minister for Health and the Expert Working Group on Rapid Testing to establish if the digital Covid certificate, PCR testing and/or antigen testing could play a role in the reopening of the live entertainment sector," the statement continued.

Ms Martin said: “I am acutely aware of the devastating impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the live entertainment sector. The things we love and dearly miss like live concerts, plays, festivals involve congregation and, unfortunately, Covid thrives in that environment. 

"This has necessitated significant restrictions on live entertainment to protect public health. I have engaged with numerous stakeholders in the sector and listened and understand how distressing this extended period of inactivity has been for everyone involved in the live entertainment industry. 

Darkened theatres, silent venues, crews and artists out of work is something I hope to bring to an end and is my number one priority."

The vaccine uptake has been "encouraging", she said, adding that this gives hope for the reopening of the sector in the near future.

"I will be working with Minister Donnelly and colleagues to ascertain whether other measures, such as testing, could accelerate re-opening, and depending on the public health situation more generally, it is my hope that Government will be in a position to give a clear signal on a re-opening plan by the end of August," she said.

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