Thursday, 13 May 2021
Department of Health
There has been considerable progress in reducing infection levels since the peak of the wave of infection in late 2020/early 2021 because of the widespread commitment and adherence by the public to the public health measures in place. While there is still a high level of infection nationally, the situation is considered reasonably stable and significant progress is being made in relation to the roll-out of our vaccination programme.
In recognition of the improving situation, the Government announced a roadmap on the 29 April for the gradual lifting of some restrictions over the next two months, with a particular focus on allowing more outdoor activities. A range of measures will be eased in May, with a further easing of measures in June subject to the epidemiological situation at the time. Further detail is available on Gov.ie: .
NPHET advise that this phased plan for the months of May and June can be considered low to medium risk. However, they also advise that a faster reopening over these months would be very high risk. A number of higher-risk activities including outdoor mass gatherings and events (such as parkruns for example) are not part of the reopening plans for May and June, but they will be subject to further consideration towards the end of June with a view to recommencing these activities as we move through the summer.
In relation to parkrun events, I understand that during the Covid-19 pandemic, parkrun have been supporting participants to take part in individual exercise, such as (not)parkrun, which promoted individual 5k runs, in line with public health guidelines. Given the numbers participating in parkruns prior to the pandemic, current guidelines do not allow for the immediate return of parkrun events. However, my Department, through Healthy Ireland, the HSE and Sport Ireland, through the Expert Working Group-Return to Sport, are committed to working with and supporting all organisations to return to activity safely and in line with current and evolving public health guidance. There continues to be regular contact with parkrun organisers and detailed discussions regarding a return of parkrun events will commence once Government has taken decisions in relation to the re-introduction of outdoor mass participation events.
It is important to note that while there is now scope to ease a range of public health measures, this approach must continue to be cautious, gradual and on a phased basis, with sufficient time between any easing of measures to assess the impact. This will be critical to ensuring the protection of the gains of recent months, the protection of those most vulnerable, and the protection of health and social care, education, and childcare services.
It is also important to note that while there is considerably less risk of transmission of COVID-19 outdoors compared to indoors, outdoors activities are not entirely risk-free. HIQA undertook an evidence review on higher-risk environments and activities for the NPHET in November 2020, drawing on national and international evidence. The Review found that while there is consistent evidence that the risk of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is substantially lower, there is still evidence of transmission occurring in outdoor environments. This is particularly the case when there are large gatherings, where social distancing or the use of face coverings are neglected, and where there is dense congregation and mixing among groups. There are also risks linked to what might precede and follow outdoor gatherings including associated events and activities and shared travel to or from events or activities. The review is available here (.)
Significant progress has been made on suppressing the virus over recent months due to the huge effort of people across the country. By working together, we have saved lives and limited the impact of the disease on society in Ireland. We all must continue to do everything possible to continue to avoid the virus spreading and to support the safe reopening of activities over the coming months.