Members of the Traveller community in Cork have been offered "emergency accommodation" to self-isolate following an outbreak of Covid-19 in one of the country’s most over-crowded halting sites.
The outbreak, at the Spring Lane site in Ballyvolane on the northside of Cork city, is one of three outbreaks in the Irish Traveller community in the first week of this year, and among 47 open outbreaks in the community, which are being managed by public health specialists.
It is not clear how many people have tested positive on the site but it is understood that up to 60 people were being offered various forms of support over the weekend in an effort to contain the outbreak.
The chair of the city’s Traveller accommodation committee, Cllr Oliver Moran, said some groups, because of their circumstances, need more support to manage their response to such outbreaks.
“There has been an outbreak in Traveller accommodation in the city. Traveller support organisations and the city council have been responding over the past week," he said.
“That includes providing wrap-around services that have been provided to other groups also, such as ensuring people who are self-isolating have food and other essentials.
“As with everybody else, someone confirmed to have Covid-19 is perfectly entitled to self-isolate in their own home too. That is being supported as well."
He thanked the Cork Traveller Women's Network for their help with the response.
In a statement, Cork City Council said there had been a number of Covid-19 outbreaks in the past week “amongst some of the most vulnerable groups in the city”.
“Together with the HSE and other voluntary organisations, Cork City Council has been working to ensure these groups have the necessary supports to self isolate and thereby reduce the risk of continued contact. Supports offered include emergency accommodation, if required,” it said.
But Independent councillor Ken O’Flynn criticised the fact that the council was making emergency accommodation available in the form of council homes for the period of self-isolation, thereby removing those properties from the city’s available housing stock.
“The city council is prioritising these people for vacant council homes in an effort to assist their self isolation," he said.
“Empty barrack space in Collins Barracks should be made available immediately to assist these families, rather than housing within the community, where further spread of the virus could, and most like will, occur.”
He also said the outbreak at this crowded halting site should serve as a cautionary tale for everyone.
“It should serve as a reminder to us all that we should all be wearing face masks, washing our hands, not visiting other peoples’ homes, and certainly not attending large family gatherings,” he said.