Skellig Star: Basic Covid-19 precautions missing weeks after first virus cases identified

Skellig Star: Basic Covid-19 precautions missing weeks after first virus cases identified
The Skellig Star Hotel direct provision centre in Caherciveen, where 32 residents have been on hunder strike since Monday. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

Basic Covid-19 precautions did not exist at a Kerry direct provision centre more than a month after residents started showing symptoms of the virus.

According to an infectious disease nurse who inspected the Skellig Star Hotel in Caherciveen, the wrong cleaning products were being used and there was “no procedure” on how to clean rooms.

Rooms which had already been cleaned after occupants had tested positive for Covid-19 had to be "re-cleaned and disinfected using correct products,” Mary Reidy said.

The clinical nurse specialist sent her remarks in an email sent to public health specialists on April 29 about her visit to the centre earlier that day.

There was also “inappropriate storage” facilities for dirty laundry, she said.

Social distancing appeared to be non-existent.

The email is part of a dossier of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by members of Fáilte Caherciveen, the group set up to welcome and support Skellig Star Hotel residents.

Some 32 residents at the hotel have been on hunger strike since Monday.

They decided to take the drastic action because of ongoing problems, including allegations of food and water rationing, which management denies.

In a move to try and end the hunger strike, residents were all given a letter from Oonagh Buckley, the secretary-general of the Department of Justice, on Wednesday night.

In it, she appealed for them to end the hunger strike and promised at least some of the residents will be transferred in the coming days.

A resident at the Skellig Star Direct Provision Centre in Caherciveen Co Kerry. Picture: Alan Landers
A resident at the Skellig Star Direct Provision Centre in Caherciveen Co Kerry. Picture: Alan Landers

The first time residents started displaying Covid-19 symptoms was March 21, four days after they had arrived at the hotel.

Around 25 residents subsequently tested positive, with the first case diagnosed on April 13.

Ms Reidy's visit, which identified the shortfalls in cleaning, took place more than a fortnight after this.

A bus service to enable visits to nearby major towns, and the transfer of residents who have formally applied to leave the Skellig Star direct provision centre, is being considered by the Department of Justice.

The FOI documents also reveal that a bus service to Killarney was part of the original plans to convert the hotel to what was a seventh direct provision centre in County Kerry.

Originally, the immediate hotel was to have housed 150 international protection applicants, and further numbers were to have been accommodated at the rear of the hotel in 36 refurbished apartments.

Documents detail how in September 2019, a building associated with Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator who hailed from Caherciveen, was being viewed by the Department as having potential for use as a recreation and meeting area for the new residents.

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