Drug and alcohol support group meetings do not have to limit attendance to just six people, it has been confirmed this evening.

Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan, said he welcomed clarification on the issue.

"I am aware of concerns that recently introduced regulations that restrict indoor events to no more than six attendees would impact on the operation of drug and alcohol supports groups like AA and Narcotics Anonymous," he said in a statement.

"It has been clarified to me that drug and alcohol support group meetings are not impacted by these restrictions and can continue to operate, subject to physical distancing and other protective measures."

Minister Feighan highlighted the following general guidance that online meetings were preferred but "where face-to-face meetings are necessary, physical distancing of two metres must apply".

Meetings should be kept as short as possible with increased ventilation, where available.

"The numbers attending should be kept to an absolute minimum. Capacity will depend on the venue ... the overall numbers at any one time within the meeting facility should not exceed 50 people."

He said multiple pods of a maximum of six people in each is "preferable if sufficient space is available and if it is feasible, with no inter-mingling between pods". 

Managed and organised arrival and departure processes must also be in place. 

Minister Feighan said public health advice has been adapted to the changing circumstances of Covid-19 and this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.

The Sligo-Leitrim TD added: "Drug and alcohol support provide are a key lifeline for people struggling with addiction and support their recovery and rehabilitation.

"I welcome the clarification that these support groups can continue to operate.

"I would advise that the support groups proceed with a degree of extra caution, as individuals with addiction problems are more vulnerable to the risk of Covid-19, and put in place strict protective measures."