HSE was aware of Covid-19 case at Dublin hotel from which residents were moved to Kerry

The HSE says it was aware of a Covid-19 case at a hotel in Dublin whose residents were later moved to the former Skellig Star hotel in Caherciveen, but representatives told the Oireachtas they do not believe this case and the first case at the Kerry hotel are linked.
HSE was aware of Covid-19 case at Dublin hotel from which residents were moved to Kerry
The Skellig Star Hotel in Caherciveen, Kerry

The HSE says it was aware of a Covid-19 case at a hotel in Dublin whose residents were later moved to the former Skellig Star hotel in Caherciveen, but representatives told the Oireachtas they do not believe this case and the first case at the Kerry hotel are linked.

Representatives of the executive and the Department of Justice were before the cross-party committee to answer questions on Direct Provision, with much of the questioning focusing on the Kerry centre, which has seen at least 25 cases of the virus.

Dr Kevin Kellleher of the HSE told the committee that the first case at the hotel "came around 12 to 14 days after that person was moved". Residents had been moved from Swords to Kerry on March 18 and 19, which would put the first case on or around March 30.

However, Fianna Fáil TD for Kerry Norma Foley said she has seen "verifiable evidence" that the first case of Covid-19 at the hotel was isolated one day after arrival and was reported to the Department of Justice on March 24.

"That date (March 30) puzzles me as I have verifiable evidence of written communication from the Skellig Star to the Department of Justice and Equality on March 24 confirming a suspected case of Covid-19. The resident concerned was placed in isolation on March 20, one day after arrival in Caherciveen.

"If the Department of Justice and Equality knew of a suspected case on March 24, why was the HSE not aware of it until March 30, almost a week later?

"The timeline might not be of importance to either the HSE or the Department of Justice and Equality but it is very important to the residents of the Skellig Star and the community of Caherciveen. This timeline confirms unequivocally that Covid-19 was transported by bus on March 18 and March 19 to the Skellig Star and the community of Caherciveen.

" I apportion absolute culpability to the HSE and the Department of Justice and Equality for not conducting the necessary Covid-19 testing prior to those people leaving Dublin. To my mind, at the very least this was a grave oversight and at worst an unequivocal dereliction of duty of care to all concerned."

Mark Wilson of the Reception and Integration Agency told Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy that a Covid-19 risk assessment was not carried out on the residents as it had not been deemed necessary at the time.

Sinn Féin TD Pa Daly asked Ms Oonagh Buckley, Deputy Secretary General of the Department of Justice about the Garda vetting of staff at the centre. Ms Buckley confirmed that up until the end of last week, staff at the centre were not vetted.

"It was brought to our attention on Wednesday last that there may have been staff on-site who had not been Garda-vetted. The Garda vetting unit indicated to us that there were concerns about the way in which the Garda vetting had been done and the fact that there were some staff on-site who had not been Garda-vetted. This is a very serious thing. It was an unacceptable thing that happened."

Ms Buckley said that all staff had been vetted as of this Monday.

There have been 14 outbreaks of Covid-19 in Direct Provision centres, with 180 cases overall.

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