Department of Health staff to work remotely as Covid-19 case numbers remain high

Department of Health staff to work remotely as Covid-19 case numbers remain high

The Department of Health at Miesian Plaza. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

The Department of Health has told staff that they are to work from home indefinitely unless otherwise directed.

There had been a requirement for staff to attend offices for one day a week but sources say that this has now been suspended indefinitely.

A notice sent to staff says that due to the department's leadership role in pandemic response, staff are to work remotely unless told otherwise by a member of staff at Principal Officer or Management Board level. Attendance in offices is discouraged, and any attendance should be in line with HSA guidance.

The Department said: "Given its leadership role in terms of the public health response to Covid-19, a range of staff of the Department of Health have attended on-site in the workplace for business reasons throughout the course of the pandemic and continue to do so. More recently, the Department commenced the process of bringing all other staff who had been working remotely back to the office on a phased and cautious basis, with attendance one day per week subject to review and depending on the prevailing environment.

"The Department is implementing the Health & Safety Authority's guidance and keeps workplace attendance under review on an ongoing basis. The matter has been considered further this week and staff were informed on Thursday 4th November that mandatory attendance of one day per week has been suspended temporarily. 

Attendance is now limited to specific business purposes as determined by management in the various Divisions, pending further review. Staff will continue to attend where necessary but will not be required to attend where work can be undertaken remotely.

"We will continue to keep this under review."

The latest public health guidelines say that a return to workplaces "will continue on a phased and cautious basis for specific business requirements".

The change in policy came as 3,024 new cases of the virus were reported yesterday and against a backdrop of heightened pressure in the country's hospital system.

Some 458 people are in hospital, and if this reaches 1,000, it would have a "major impact" on services, HSE CEO Paul Reid said.

Mr Reid said hospitals are "coping" but elective procedures are already being impacted by the Covid case-load. He said the virus is putting "significant and unrelenting pressure" on the health system. 

“We are at a level of transmission in the community that has forced many aspects of the response of our healthcare system overall into surge responses where we are dealing with a very disproportionate set of demands across the board,” he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also issued a strong warning ahead of the winter months, forecasting 500,000 more deaths in Europe by February as the continent finds itself in the epicentre of the pandemic once again.

It has urged governments across the continent to re-think easing restrictions, with cases rising 6% in the last week in Europe.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said 'there's no point hypothesising' about increased restrictions in Ireland. Picture: Leah Farrell /
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said 'there's no point hypothesising' about increased restrictions in Ireland. Picture: Leah Farrell /

But, despite these warnings, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has played down talk of further restrictions in Ireland, saying "there's no point hypothesising" about increased restrictions in Ireland. He reiterated that the high vaccination rate has substantially reduced the link between case numbers and hospitals, which are the crucial factors in managing this phase of the pandemic.

Hans Kluge, the WHO's Europe director warned the continent finds itself in a delicate spot.

“We are, once again, at the epicentre,” he said. 

“With a widespread resurgence of the virus, I am asking every health authority to carefully reconsider easing or lifting measures at this moment.” 

Cases are rising in all 53 countries in the region and the average vaccination across Europe is just 47%. Three countries are below 20% and many are struggling to reach the high levels required to hold back the virus.

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd