At this point in the pandemic, we know a few things about the Irish approach to the challenge: it’s on the more conservative end of the spectrum; it tends to be one size fits all, and it doesn’t allow for a lot of nuance or agility.
This could all become a growing problem as we head into fall. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan had to make an inelegant gap after telling RTÃ that vaccine passes were a bad idea for the sake of social cohesion. He was back on the air 48 hours later, explaining why the same passes were likely to happen, following amended recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet). There was no shame in it; changing your policy in the light of a changed reality is good governance. The real problem was that no preparatory work had been done before the decision to introduce these passes.
Ryan’s party colleague and Minister of the Arts, Catherine Martin, should learn this lesson when it comes to applying the new pass to cultural events. Currently, theaters and cinemas are only allowed to accommodate 50 people (including performers) in an auditorium. Those numbers were due to be revised on July 5 but, as with indoor meals and drinks, all bets are open until July 19 at the earliest.
Now it looks like the government may be able to add its vaccination card system to the already agreed EU digital travel card. Meanwhile, pilot events – both indoor and outdoor – continue and the results of these, we are told, will inform further decisions on lifting restrictions later in the summer and into the future. -of the.
Promoters and production companies find ingenious ways to present shows to the public. This week alone, an online premiere in Dublin (The Secrets of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll) and an outdoor premiere in Limerick (the aptly titled In the Fields, in a Field in Kilmallock). The Druid, the Abbey and the Gate all have productions in the works.
In two weeks, the Galway Film Fleadh will offer a mixed program of online streaming and outdoor screenings at Father Burke Park. The Kilkenny Arts Festival in early August had to cut some of its plans due to the disruption of the reopening, but still pursues a varied program, while the Galway International Arts Festival, which announces its program next week, looks to have taken a wise decision by moving from its usual slot from July to the end of August. If the restrictions haven’t been relaxed by then, then things will be really gloomy.
Martin can make a significant contribution to the success of these and many other businesses by being prepared to apply the benefits of any vaccine passes to sites as quickly as possible once the system is up and running.
It may sound like an obvious bleeding statement, but recent evidence of the state’s inflexibility on issues such as second doses of vaccine for those 60 and over, or its lack of preparation for passes. (although several other European countries have put them in place for months), suggests that agility is not a strength of this administration.
What effect can a pass have? Unfortunately, this will not have the impact of Denmark, which has allowed the opening of bars, restaurants, cinemas and other places with near-normal capacities. This is because Denmark has relied on mass antigen testing, with half a million tests performed each day on people who are then allowed to enter the premises for a period of time afterwards.
Nphet’s well-documented resistance to such testing was a major factor in the slow unwinding of restrictions in Ireland. Sadly, and inexplicably (does the data show the Irish to be less trustworthy?) This is likely to continue.
But in Denmark, they also plan to end their “corona pass” by October 1, on the grounds that by then the vast majority of the country’s population will have been vaccinated. This will also be the case here, according to current government projections. If (and it’s still a big if) the Danes and other European countries stick to this timeline, it’s hard to see how Ireland could do anything else, unless the government reopens faster. British does go terribly wrong and affects us.
It is likely that the next two months will be a transition period before a much wider reopening. This transition period will likely include a pass for the Covid vaccine, with the same challenges – age inequality and implications for unvaccinated staff – for cinema and theaters as it does for restaurants and bars. But the Department of the Arts must be at the table, ensuring that any new regulatory regime applies not only to hospitality but also to culture.