Frontline garda supervisors are calling for accelerated Covid-19 testing for all gardaí to maximise policing resources and to protect members during the virus outbreak.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) said a high level of testing would ensure that those who are negative are straight back onto the frontline.
The staff body said this was better than having gardaí who are displaying symptoms, but who are not positive for Covid-19, self-isolating for seven days and unable to work.
AGSI deputy general secretary Antoinette Cunningham said the same should apply across frontline public services.
“We are advocating for accelerated testing for members, not only for their protection, but if the test is false [for Covid-19] then they are not held in a waiting game, self-isolating for six to seven days, but are back to work straight away,” Ms Cunningham said.
She said the association had sought accelerated tests from Garda management and that management, in turn, has sought it.
Local garda commanders have expressed concern to the Irish Examiner about the likely impact of Covid-19 on the resources they will have available.
One said he expected it to have a “significant impact” on staff levels, predicting the situation is going to worsen in the coming weeks.
Another senior garda said, “Gardaí on the frontline are more exposed. They often deal with the elderly and the vulnerable and there could be emergency situations. So, while they are being very careful, there’s more exposure and more risk. But the job has to be done.”
The officer added, “We are fine now. We are at a maximum in terms of resources, with the new 12 hour roster, but if 20% of society are going to get it, then 20% of guards are going to get it. This could be an increasing challenge.”
Garda managers say they are trying to minimise the spread of Covid-19 through a number of measures, including through the new roster, which keeps garda units separate, removing the crossover under the old roster.
Gloves, hand sanitisers and anti-bacteria wipes have also been delivered, as well as a smaller supply of masks and white suits for prisoners who might develop Covid-19 symptoms.
There were reports yesterday that a garda station in the Midlands has had to take measures after a garda tested positive for Covid-19.
Other gardaí at the station who have had contact with the member have been advised to go into self-isolation, as per HSE guidelines.
The numbers affected are not yet known.