Answers needed on confused preparation and failure to test at pilot live events - Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Arts and Culture, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, called on the Minister Catherine Martin to provide detail on what preparation has gone into this Summer’s pilot live event tests that started this week.
Teachta Ó Snodaigh has called on the Minister to ensure that the events will be used effectively to plan for a full reopening of the arts and live events sector, and to explain the last minute decision not to use antigen testing on attendees.
The Dublin South-Central TD explained:
“While I am delighted that we finally have test events taking place, I am deeply worried by the last minute preparation and lack of detail on how these will be used to prepare so that more events can take place safely across the country.
“Despite reports as recently as this month that the first event in Iveagh Gardens would involve antigen testing for audience members – as has happened internationally in Barcelona and Liverpool for instance – we had a last minute u-turn from the government with very little explanation.
“Using pods and restricting crowd behaviour at a select handful of showcase events is all good and well, but the same limits can’t be transferred to the vast majority of venues across the country as they hope to reopen.
"We were led to believe these test events would be just that – tests – to try out situations that could then be safely replicated nationwide.
“This does not appear to be taking place.
“We had months to prepare for this, and it was shambolic that it took until late April for the Return to Live Events Working Group to even be formed.
"The Group’s minutes have not been published, despite my requests, and we have no information on the research used to plan this summer’s events.
“We seem to be repeating the mistakes made in December, when the Department organised similar ‘test’ events in the National Concert Hall and Abbey Theatre, that received very little coverage.
“I recently learned through parliamentary questions that the only follow-up ‘testing’ that took place at these events, amounted to little more than a sample of attendees being asked how they enjoyed their evening, with no steps taken to ensure Covid-19 had not spread among attendees.
“This meant that nothing could be learned on the effectiveness of mitigation measures that could help prepare us for the current reopening, and we are effectively starting from scratch again in terms of test events.
“If this government got its act together we could be having test events nationwide, using a combination of antigen testing, protective screens, acoustic music, distancing, mask-wearing or minimising dancing and singing along if necessary at small venues across the country this summer.
“The music and events sector cannot afford another wasted opportunity, and needs a plan to reopen.”