Covid-19 hits Kerry hotel housing asylum seekers

Two die as residents and staff of Cork community hospital infected
Covid-19 hits Kerry hotel housing asylum seekers

- additional reporting by Neil Michael, Noel Baker, and Jess Casey

There has been an outbreak of Covid-19 in a Kerry hotel housing more than 100 asylum seekers recently transferred from Dublin.

Four asylum seekers at the Skellig Star in Caherciveen tested positive and were transferred to Cork last Tuesday. However, there are fears locally that the number of positive cases could be higher.

Business and local community leaders met with management of the hotel in its car park on Saturday night to seek assurances as rumours spread.

After the meeting, management at the centre agreed that its residents, who had been visiting shops and pharmacies in the town, would remain in the hotel for a 24-hour period and that groceries and other items would be delivered.

The latest cluster comes as the HSE confirmed that at least two residents of Clonakilty Community Hospital have died from Covid-19. Other residents and staff members have also tested positive, and a team of experts has been drafted in to handle the outbreak.

The team consists of experts from the Departments of Public Health in occupational therapy, and infection prevention and control. A consultant geriatrician has also been drafted in, as has a team of GPs.

West Cork TD Michael Collins said he raised the issue of multi-occupancy rooms at the hospital about 10 days ago with the Department of Health. “But I didn’t get a reply,” he said.

“Relatives were understandably concerned about what precautions were being taken to physically distance residents from each other.

“I am very sorry to hear that residents have died and that there are others who now have the virus, and my thoughts and sympathies are with them at this time.”

Yesterday, the Department of Health confirmed a further 39 people diagnosed with Covid-19 in Ireland have died, bringing the overall death toll here to 610.

A further 445 new cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday. An additional 48 cases from the backlog of tests sent to a laboratory in Germany also tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Republic of Ireland to 15,251.

The contract between the Department of Justice and the former Skellig Star Hotel in Caherciveen is for a 12- month period. It is to provide accommodation for 150 single people across 56 bedrooms and was offered to the department under the Expressions of Interest process.

Caherciveen Community and Business Alliance chairman Jack Fitzpatrick said: “Three weeks ago the HSE promised us they would contact us immediately if there was any change. Last night after we approached management, the hotel confirmed four residents had tested positive and had been moved to Cork.”

Yesterday, the Department of Justice said it has put in place a range of measures in direct provision centres to address cases of Covid-19 if or when they arise. This includes the provision for self-isolation facilities and a number of off-site isolation centres.

Meanwhile, Leaving Certificate students will likely be prioritised, should schools partially reopen.

Cillian De Gascun, chair of the HSE’s expert advisory group on Covid-19, said one day of school per week would help students return to normality.

The National Public Health Emergency Team would like to prioritise sixth- year students, given the difficult circumstances they are studying in, he told RTÉ. However, it is unlikely that schools will immediately reopen, even partially, after May 5.

This followed Health Minister Simon Harris signalling that reopening schools one day a week is being considered as part of plans to ease restrictions.

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