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phased return Fan-tastic news – July return for GAA and soccer spectators on cards under pilot scheme


Donegal football fans.

Donegal football fans.

Donegal football fans.

Spectators could be back at GAA and League of Ireland matches as early as July under plans for a pilot scheme for mass sports events.

The Government is currently mapping out the details of the pilot scheme for matches and concerts that would take place in the summer.

Antigen testing would be crucial to these events and they would help to determine how large-scale concerts, live entertainment events and matches with spectators can resume safely as the vaccine roll-out continues.

This pilot would be similar to one conducted in Barcelona, where an outdoor rock concert with 5,000 people in attendance took place several weeks ago.

Attendees were tested before and after the concert and had to wear medical masks. However, they did not have to abide by social distancing.

There were only six people who tested positive in the two weeks after the event – with four saying that they believed they contracted the virus at the concert.

However, the Irish version would be on a much smaller scale and pilot events for matches would involve 5pc of a stadium capacity attending, the Sunday World understands. For the Aviva Stadium, this could mean a crowd of 2,585 people.

It is understood “a lot of the work” for sports events under this pilot scheme was done before Christmas within the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

An expert group, which included the IRFU, the GAA and the FAI, has already submitted a report to the Department of Health.

Minister of State at the Department of Sport Jack Chambers said draft guidelines for the return of spectators at matches had been submitted.

Mr Chambers said that while the “precise” timing for these events was dependent on the spread of the virus, he was “optimistic” some test events could be held over summer.

Separately, it emerged that travelling across the Border to Northern Ireland will be included in the easing of restrictions and the resumption of inter-county travel from May 10.

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan confirmed the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is “not advising people not to” travel into Northern Ireland.

But he expressed serious concern over the high rate of infection in Donegal and said his counterpart in Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride, is worried people may travel into Donegal for holidays and that the virus would spread. There are also concerns over high incidences in Derry.

“Those are rational, reasonable concerns for our colleagues in Northern Ireland to have. We share those concerns with each other,” he added.

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