Irish Church exempt from indoor gathering restrictions

Places of worship in Ireland have been exempted from the country’s indoor gathering restrictions.

The relaxation of the rules responds to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin’s concerns about the feasibility of enforcing the restrictions.

Ireland’s Phase Three set a limit of 50 people for indoor gatherings and 100 people for outdoor gatherings.

In Phase Four – similar to New Zealand’s Stage 1, the indoor limit will be raised to 100.

However, last Thursday, Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar said besides being exempt from indoor gathering restrictions, houses of worship would be permitted to police their own congregations.

This is in line with social distancing norms being expected in the country’s retail locations.

While the 50-person limit worked, “albeit with some difficulty” at weekday Masses since churches reopened for publish worship, Martin said the priests were concerned about “turning many people away or having them remain outside where social distancing is more problematic.

A “more reasonable and responsible” standard was needed, he said.

Martin said it seemed “strange that in a church with a capacity of 1,500 people – which has been scrupulously fitted out for conformity with social distancing … that only 50 people might be present, while … large retail outlets [are] brimming with people.

“The new Northern Ireland advice is that the number should be calculated on the basis of proportionality to the size of each Church whereas in the Republic of Ireland a blanket cap of 50 people is still in place.”

Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer and the public health authorities were “strongly against” making any exception for churches from the maximum number of 50 at indoor gatherings.

They felt that the larger a gathering the greater the risk of infection and they referred to examples overseas where outbreaks had occurred around church gatherings.

Ireland has had about 25,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with 1,727 deaths attributed to the disease.

The number of new cases discovered in the country each day has dwindled to the low double digits.


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,