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Most construction work will stop unless essential to pandemic, Harris says

Construction will not be on the list of essential non-retail services due to be published today, Harris confirmed.

Construction workers in Dublin recently.
Construction workers in Dublin recently.

CONSTRUCTION WORK THAT is not essential to the Covid-19 pandemic will end until 12 April under new government measures, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh, Harris confirmed that most construction is not considered an essential service under new government guidelines. 

A full list of essential non-retail services was published the government today. A list of essential retail outlets was already released by the government. 

Under construction, the essential work is listed as:

Essential health and related projects relevant to the COVID-19 crisis, and supplies necessary for such projects

Repair/construction of critical road and utility infrastructure

Delivery of emergency services to businesses and homes on an emergency call-out basis in areas such as electrical, plumbing, glazing and roofing

“They’re not [essential] unless they are building something that is essential to this pandemic,” Harris said. 

“For example modular units, adapting a hotel – things that we need to do to actually get through this pandemic.”

He said only people who can’t work from home should be leaving their homes but “everybody should be trying to work from home”.  

“I need everybody in Ireland to stay at home,” he said. 

The director general of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), Tom Parlon, said the organisation is calling on all its members to secure construction sites immediately. 

The CIF is the representative body for Ireland’s construction industry. 

“We recommend that members sending teams to secure sites should call ahead to gardaí to inform them,” Parlon said.  

He said the CIF will continue to engage with the government and the HSE to “explore ways the industry can contribute” to combating Covid-19. 

Unite trade union which represents construction workers in Ireland welcomed the news that non-essential construction will be effectively closed.

The union said construction workers had highlighted the impossibility of adhering to hygiene and social distancing requirements on site.

The union’s regional officer for construction Tom Fitzgerald said this would come as a relief to “tens of thousands of construction workers” who were concerned about contracting the virus and transmitting it to their families.

“Construction workers are eager to help in the national battle against this pandemic, which is why our call to close non-essential sites specifically excluded essential works, including works relating to health and pharmaceutical facilities or similar connected with the current crisis, as well as works connected with the maintenance of essential utilities and emergency assistance to households,” Fitzgerald said.  

“With regard to the construction sector, Unite’s focus will now turn to protecting construction workers’ incomes and ensuring that precariously employed workers are protected.”  

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