Gardaí ask HQ bosses about plans if coronavirus spreads

Middle ranking gardaí have asked Garda HQ about its plans in the event of the spread of coronavirus among members.

Gardaí ask HQ bosses about plans if coronavirus spreads

Middle ranking gardaí have asked Garda HQ about its plans in the event of the spread of coronavirus among members.

It follows comments made by PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne that officers in the North may face 12-hour shifts and cancelled rest days if the virus has a serious impact on staffing levels.

He said contingency plans are in place if high numbers of officers were struck down by the disease.

The Chief Constable said he is in discussion with Stormont’s Justice Department about securing bolstered powers to enable officers detain affected people who might be unwilling to quarantine themselves - similar to powers handed to police in England.

There are 13 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the South and three in the North.

A spokesperson for the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said: “AGSI has written to the CMO [Garda Chief Medical Officer] about plans for gardaí in the event of the spread of Covid-19. Garda management has issued advisories to all members."

Garda Representative Association president Jim Mulligan said it is liaising with management on a national and local basis to ensure members are kept informed and safe.

Advice has been issued by Garda management and we have a commitment from the Garda Chief Medical Officer that members will be updated regularly as the situation develops.

“The GRA is in daily contact with management and our focus at this time is on ensuring that protective equipment and supplies are available to all our members.”

“Comments by PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne are not matters for the GRA.”

A statement from Garda HQ said the organisation continues “to operate as normal” and added: “The Garda Chief Medical Officer has provided advice to all Garda personnel in line with advice from the HSE and Department of Health.”

In a statement to the Dáil, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said: “Garda management have plans in place to manage, on a case by case basis, any issues that arise in their workforce, which totals over 17,500 people.”

He said AGS attends meetings of the Health Threat Coordination Group on a weekly basis.

“An Garda Síochána continues to operate as normal and will keep their procedures when dealing with members of the public under constant review,” he said.

The minister said immigration services are also taking measures, including at Dublin Airport, where border management officers deal with around 16 million people per annum – or, on average, around 44,000 a day.

He said the services are working with the HSE on a number of areas: accommodation centres for international protection applicants; public offices used for registration of immigration permissions and the international protection offices.

The minister said the Courts Service is updating continuity plans for courthouses and buildings and that communication plans “are being developed” for judges, staff and court users.

Mr Flanagan said an “extensive ICT contingency plan” is being prepared in the event of Court Service buildings being unavailable and that “issues associated with closing services, if deemed necessary, are being examined”.

He said additional sanitisation of public offices and courthouses has been arranged and hygiene supplies for public offices and hand sanitisers for public areas will be installed in the coming days.

He said the Irish Prison Service is working with the HSE in developing contingency plans, specifically for the management of Covid-19 should it present in prisons.

The IPS has assigned its Executive Clinical Lead, Infection Control Manager to Covid-19 preparedness.

The minister said a comprehensive information pack has been made available to all staff and hygiene control training will be “completed within the next week”.

He said the IPS has secured hygiene supplies.

Mr Flanagan said the IPS is considering various options for “enhanced screening processes” for newly committed prisoners, visitors, staff, contractors and providers.

The Movement of Asylum Seekers (MASI) asked how the Justice Minister thought asylum seekers in direct provision or homeless people in emergency accommodation will be able to “self isolate” if they have symptoms – as per HSE notices issues in such facilities – if multiple people are sharing rooms.

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