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'Gatherings of up to 5,000 could be given go-ahead in September' - Leo

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Outdoor gatherings could be on the way back, but we will need to respect social-distancing

Outdoor gatherings could be on the way back, but we will need to respect social-distancing

Outdoor gatherings could be on the way back, but we will need to respect social-distancing

Outdoor gatherings of up to 5,000 people could be allowed from September, with cinemas reopening in August, Leo Varadkar has said.

The Taoiseach had said there would be no mass gatherings until after the end of August at the earliest.

However, speaking yesterday, he revealed that if the virus remains suppressed, there could be potential for large outdoor events in September.

"What we've said is there will be no mass gatherings until August 31 at the earliest," he told reporters at Government Buildings.

"But, you know, if things continue to go in the right direction, if the virus stays suppressed, you could see some smaller outdoor mass gatherings in September.

"Maybe outdoor cultural events of a few thousand people, maybe 3,000 or 4,000, 5,000, but unlikely to be more than that."

Mr Varadkar said he also believed cinemas could reopen in August, as long as they operate social-distancing with empty seats between customers.

"I would envisage cinemas, for example, opening in August, but socially-distanced, and I'm told that cinemas can operate at a profit socially-distanced," he said.

"That's really hard for live performances for theatres, so that's going to be trickier, but it's safe to do so."

The Government currently intends to lift all Covid-19 restrictions by July 20, but maintain limits on indoor and outdoor mass gatherings for several weeks beyond that.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at the announcement of €25m in extra funding for the arts and culture sector, which has been badly hit by the lockdown.

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Cinema-goers will have to practise social-distancing

Cinema-goers will have to practise social-distancing

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Cinema-goers will have to practise social-distancing

The new funding will include bursaries and commissions to artists and arts organisations as well as resources for museums and culture workers as they prepare for the reopening of society.

The Arts Council will be handed an extra €20m, bringing its total funding for the year to €100m.

An additional €5m is being made available to secure the future of cultural spaces and museums and the production of digital art and online performances.

Suffered

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan said the Arts Council has already estimated that 41,600 events will not go ahead this year, with 3.4 million audience attendances lost.

Meanwhile, pubs and restaurants will be allowed reduce social distancing to just one metre if they limit patrons to just 90 minutes inside.

Failte Ireland has indicated that guidelines to be issued ahead of their reopening on June 29 include a reduced physical distancing threshold "in certain circumstances".

The move to allow more people inside venues will be hugely welcomed by the hospitality sector. However, sources say that pub-goers and diners will have to leave after 90 minutes.

Restaurants will also be told in the coming days that they will be expected to primarily operate a pre-book service.

This will have major implications for hotels as it may see guests assigned a time slot for breakfast the night before.

It has also emerged that pubs hoping to open at the end of the month will be required to serve food considered to be "a main midday or evening meal" that costs at least €9.

Tourism chiefs are in talks with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the Department of Transport and Tourism about a document entitled: Covid-19: Guidance for Food Service Businesses.

Failte Ireland said it will provide "detailed guidance is aimed at facilitating the safe reopening of food service businesses, including pubs".

"The guidelines refer to various measures and arrangements, including a potential reduction of the current 2-metre physical distancing restriction to 1-metre in certain circumstances."

The handbook for reopening will apply to all pubs, gastro pubs and bars. They will state that from June 29 pubs that serve food and meet other features expected of a restaurant may reopen.

Any food offering will be required to be a substantial meal as defined by the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1962 which states "the meal is such as might be expected to be served as a main midday or evening meal, and will be required to be of a kind for which it would be reasonable to charge not less than €9."