Pantos can go ahead this Christmas but don't bring the children – Health Minister
"Every parent will want to do the right thing to keep their kids safe."
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has advised that children avoid major public events such as pantomimes as Christmas comes into focus amidst the latest Covid-19 wave.
According to the Minister, pantomimes may continue to go ahead as planned, but the advice is that only adults should attend.
In conversation on Today with Claire Byrne on Monday, Donnelly said that financial supports will be provided to affected industries in the wake of booking cancellations.
"For those who are involved it is absolutely heartbreaking," he said.
"Not only are they dealing with all of those cancellations, they have been through what will undoubtedly have been the most horrible year-and-a-half of their professional careers. It is absolutely heartbreaking and Government will definitely looking at any supports that are available, obviously.
"However, I think everyone would appreciate that we have to act in the common good; we have to act and keep people safe... the NPHET advice is there for one reason and it's to keep children safe."
Asked about children visiting Santa, the Minister said:
"I don't see any issue with that whatsoever."
Donnelly added that Cabinet will provide a decision on the general gathering of children on Tuesday.
"NPHET has provided advice – is Government going to endorse that advice? I can tell you as Minister for Health, I do, but Cabinet, as is right and proper, will take a view tomorrow," he said.
Asked if a parent is organising a birthday party for their child should they cancel it, Donnelly said:
"Yeah, yeah, absolutely. But remember, for a short period of time – just two or three weeks – and, critically, for the really important reason of keeping children safe.
"Every parent will want to do the right thing to keep their kids safe, that would be the advice."
Responding to the Health Minister's advice, Panti Bliss noted on Twitter that the pantomime industry will likely be adversely affected as a result of the directive.
"A lot of my friends work in and rely on pantos," said Panti.
"They take months of prep, hard work, and lots of money. Telling them the shows can go on while telling audiences to stay away is devastating and can only be read as a way to close them without having to provide financial supports.
"Another example of jobs in the arts not being seen as real jobs. They're just hobbies, and hobbies don't pay your rent or get you a mortgage or feed your kids."
Another example of jobs in the arts not being seen as real jobs. They're just hobbies, and hobbies don't pay your rent or get you a mortgage or feed your kids
— Dr Panti Bliss-Cabrera firstname.lastname@example.org (@PantiBliss) November 29, 2021
Asked by Claire Byrne about the prospects for a "meaningful Christmas" this year, Donnelly replied:
"If you'd asked me that question in this studio last Monday, Tuesday or even Wednesday; I would have been cautiously optimistic. I still am, obviously. The efforts that people have made, the booster programme and a lot of other things do appear to be working in terms of the Delta surge we have been dealing with. So, I would have been cautiously optimistic.
"Now, of course, with this new variant – there is a big question mark," Donnelly continued.
"Ireland and every other country is now looking to and participating in the work to answer these big questions and so there's no Government right now [that] can really predict what measures might be in place in four weeks' time because of this; obviously it's moving very quickly.
"Hopefully, what we're going to find out is that it's no more transmissible than Delta, that it doesn't make people any sicker than Delta, and that the vaccines work."
Elsewhere on Monday, the Health Minister confirmed that the Government has abandoned plans to subsidise antigen tests for the public – thanks to the market sorting it out.
Featured Image via Leon Farrell / RollingNews.ie