Covid-19 outbreaks in school and direct provision increase Cork case numbers

Clusters of Covid-19 in both St Gabriel's special school in Bishopstown and the Kinsale Road direct provision centre
Covid-19 outbreaks in school and direct provision increase Cork case numbers

An outbreak of Covid-19 have been recorded in St Gabriel's special school. Picture: Denis Minihane

New outbreaks of Covid-19 have been recorded in a Cork special school and a Cork direct provision centre.

There have been clusters of Covid-19 in both St Gabriel's special school in Bishopstown and the Kinsale Road direct provision centre.

It is believed that, so far, there have been five positive cases recorded in St Gabriel's special school.

Parents were informed of the first case on Friday. Another new case was confirmed on Tuesday. However, it is not believed that these two cases are connected.

The school has been shut since Wednesday.

It is understood all staff, students and anyone else who has come into contact with the children, such as bus drivers or SNAs, will be tested.

In a statement, the HSE said: "We do not comment on individual cases or outbreaks to protect the privacy and confidentiality of those involved.

"In any case where a case of Covid-19 is linked to an educational facility, public health professionals speak directly with the person, or family as appropriate, and asks them about their contacts.

"Public health professionals also discuss the matter directly with the educational facility as part of that public health risk assessment."

Roos Demol, a volunteer who works with people living at the centre, said residents afraid to "miss work" if they test positive. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Roos Demol, a volunteer who works with people living at the centre, said residents afraid to "miss work" if they test positive. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

There has also been an outbreak of Covid-19 at the Kinsale Road direct provision centre in Cork city.

There are four confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the centre, according to a letter addressed to residents from the HSE South's public health team, which has been circulated on social media.

The letter said that the affected residents were "off-site" while they recover.

However, the letter claimed that the majority of residents had not come forward for testing so the HSE "[does] not know if there are further cases or on-going transmission within the centre."

The letter added that a round of testing took place in September, but claimed only a third of residents "took up the offer of a test on these occasions".

The letter also said that a small number of residents were deemed close contacts of the confirmed cases and they have been transferred off-site.

Roos Demol, a volunteer who works with people living at the centre, said residents afraid to "miss work" if they test positive.

While mass testing has been ongoing in the centre since the first positive case, previous to this residents who had any symptoms were referred through the GP pathway.

Ms Demol added that it was hard for asylum seekers to access this type of community testing, due to the fact they aren't allowed to drive.

She also said it was hard for people to social distance in direct provision centres.

"The shared rooms are a big problem, there are also shared bathrooms and showers."

Families are also trying to keep children in their rooms. Ms Demol says she got a call from a worried resident yesterday.

"He has a young daughter, she is four years old, he himself has asthma. They are just going to lock themselves up in their room."

The Department of Justice issued a statement in response to the outbreak at the direct provision centre on the Kinsale road. 

"It is not Department of Justice policy to comment on specific incidents.

The health and wellbeing of all residents during the Covid-19 pandemic is of the highest priority to the Department. 

"The Department and the HSE have worked closely together since the outset of the pandemic to put in place a range of measures for the safety and protection of all residents and staff including opening additional temporary accommodation to facilitate physical and social distancing in centres.

"The comprehensive Covid-19 testing programme is an additional public health measure recommended by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to safeguard residents and staff. 

"Where the HSE arranges any follow-up testing, the letter to residents informing them of this is translated and delivered to each resident’s room. Testing is generally carried out on-site at the centre. 

"Off-site testing can be organised by the HSE where they deem it appropriate. Residents in any centre who test positive for Covid-19 can self-isolate in the HSE’s national isolation facility in City West, other local HSE facilities or in a dedicated facility provided by the Department. The appropriate location for each individual case is decided by public health officials.

"Testing is voluntary and free. Neither a refusal to participate nor a positive result will affect a person’s status or application for international protection in any way. We strongly encourage all residents and staff to participate to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe from Covid-19," the statement said. 

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