Republic of Ireland news

No changes to rules for upcoming Croke Park matches, says Irish health minister

The pitch at Croke Park Stadium, Dublin. 
Dominic McGrath, PA

The Irish health minister has said that rules on attending upcoming GAA matches at Croke Park will likely not change, despite concerning scenes after the All-Ireland hurling final last weekend.

Stephen Donnelly said on Wednesday that some of the scenes outside Croke Park did cause him concern.

“I think from within the stadium the event appears to have been well run. I was concerned at some of the footage I saw after the event.”

He advised anyone who might have been socialising in a “high-risk” way to get a Covid-19 test.

Mr Donnelly appeared to rule out any changes to rules and arrangements for upcoming All-Ireland finals in Croke Park, given how soon the fixtures are.

The All-Ireland football final will take place on September 11.

On Tuesday, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan suggested that he would like to see only vaccinated people allowed to attend large-scale events, such as GAA matches in Croke Park.

“We have no reason at this moment to suggest that there would be changes, either in reducing the capacity or if you were suggesting moving to a different model for fully vaccinated,” Mr Donnelly told RTE radio.

Mr Donnelly did say it was safer if large-scale events were confined only to vaccinated people.

“We applied this principle to restaurants and bars. There was a lot of political opposition when I introduced the bill, but I think it’s gone well,” he said.

Dr Holohan also indicated on Tuesday that he would have no public health concerns with a festival like Electric Picnic taking place with only vaccinated people in attendance.

The health minister declined to commit to whether or not the event should now take place.

The National Public Health Emergency Team will meet later on Wednesday, with the Covid-19 Cabinet sub-committee due to meet on Friday.

Also speaking on Wednesday, education minister Norma Foley sought to give assurances to unvaccinated pregnant teachers that they will be safe upon a return to school in the coming days and weeks.

She said that her department had taken a “cautious” approach so far in seeking the latest medical advice.

“If it is their view that there is something unique or particular to that individual pregnancy then of course the opportunity to avail of pregnancy-related sick leave remains that has always been there and it continues to remain,” the minister said.

Public health advice recommends that pregnant women wait until 14 weeks to get a first dose of the vaccine, with a second dose before the end of 36 weeks.

Ms Foley said she was “very confident” that the public health measures introduced for schools would be enough to keep staff and pupils safe – even against the more infectious Delta variant of the virus.

She also said that all carbon dioxide monitors for schools, promised earlier this year by the Department of Education, will be delivered by the first week of September.

Ms Foley said that the monitors were an “additional tool” only in tackling Covid-19 and the idea was that they would be “portable” and able to be shared across various classrooms.

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