Written answers

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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1595. To ask the Minister for Health the current guidance and advice to schools and churches in respect of organising First Holy Communion and Confirmation ceremonies; if these important events can now be organised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34472/21]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy will be aware, on 29 June, Government announced the next phase of reopening the economy and society in line with Recovery and Resilience: The Path Ahead.

While significant progress is being made in relation to the roll-out of our vaccination programme, the rapidly increasing prevalence of the more transmissible Delta variant, and the significant risk this poses, in particular to those who are not yet fully vaccinated, meant that a number of higher risk indoor activities did not recommence as planned on 5 July, pending the implementation of a system to verify vaccination or immunity status.

Disease incidence has increased rapidly in recent weeks, especially among those who are not yet fully protected through vaccination and the outlook for the coming weeks is very uncertain.

In line with the delay to other July measures, the current advice is that religious ceremonies (outside of weddings and funerals) should not go ahead at present. This is in recognition of the multi household, multi-generational nature of these events and linked social activities and is a response to concerns from public health across the regions in relation to gatherings of this nature. Unfortunately, due to current uncertainties there is not yet an indication of when religious ceremonies will recommence. The epidemiological situation will be monitored on an ongoing basis and the level of restrictions will be kept under review by Government.

Church leaders have been very supportive of the overall national public health response to date and the Government will continue to work with them to ensure that all ceremonies can return when it is safe to do so.

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. To protect the gains of recent months we must continue to practice basic preventative behaviours and to follow public health guidelines.


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