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Senior garda ordered members to return to work despite being close contacts

The order was issued by the senior garda in a district in Leinster earlier this week, but has been rescinded.

Image: Shutterstock/Derick Hudson

A GARDA DIRECTIVE ordering officers to come back into work after five days despite being close contacts of a confirmed Covid case has been rescinded. 

A senior officer in Leinster ordered members of the force in one district to continue to work despite being close contacts of a confirmed Covid-19 case.

Several members of a Garda district in the east of the country had tested positive for the disease in the last 10 days, leaving the district low on staff. The email was sent following testing of gardaí after a Covid case. 

The directive has since been rescinded.

In a statement, an Garda Síochána said today:

Following a Covid-19+ result of a member attached to a Garda station the HSE Public Health team in consultation with An Garda Síochána determined that all members of An Garda Síochána, in the immediate previous 48 hours at the station would undergo a Covid-19 test irrespective of their contact status. All affected members self-isolated until Covid-19 test results were received.

It added:

Notwithstanding the email referred to, An Garda Síochána continues to comply with HSE guidelines in respect of staff based on the determination as to whether they are Close Contacts or Casual Contacts.

Documents seen by this publication show members of the force in the district who were deemed as close contacts were ordered to return to work after five days if showing no symptoms and after receiving a negative test result.

The order contradicted HSE guidelines which state that anyone deemed to be a close contact must restrict their movements for 14 days.

Screenshot 2021-01-12 at 4.37.30 PM A screengrab of what not to do when you are restricting your movements. Source: HSE

The HSE also says on its website to stay home even if you have a negative test and are a close contact. 

“You should continue to restrict your movements even if your test comes back negative. This is because it can take up to 14 days for the virus to show up in your system after you have been exposed to it.”

However, the HSE also announced in recent weeks that close contacts are no longer advised to get tested, as a temporary measure due to widespread levels of infection. They are still to restrict movements for 14 days. 

TheJournal.ie understands that some garda members who returned to work in this district and were dealing with members of the public have since tested positive for Covid-19. 

Some members within the district in question are said to be “livid” over the actions taken by management. 

Garda management has said that generally the efficacy of the force has not been affected by the Covid outbreaks. However, some units are “seriously depleted”, according to well-placed sources. 

It also emerged today that health workers deemed close contacts, but who are not showing Covid-19 symptoms, have been called back to work in the health service. This is due to a shortage of workers in the system, the HSE’s COO Anne O’Connor said on Morning Ireland today. 

More headaches for gardaí

The latest surge in Covid cases has affected gardaí across the country. 

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For example, at least 30 members across the Mayo division have tested positive in recent days. This has led to large numbers of people having to self-isolate, sources said.

In west Dublin, several stations have also been affected by the virus.

In Cork, it’s understood there have also been numerous confirmed cases among garda staff and members. 

Despite the increasing numbers, garda management said that there is “currently no impact on any functions of An Garda Síochána as a result of Covid-19″.  

Gardaí also confirmed that there are no special testing regimes in place and that members are expected to adhere to HSE guidelines. 

A spokeswoman for garda management said: “There is no routine Covid-19 testing for members of An Garda Síochána.

“All members of An Garda Síochána are expected to fully comply with HSE guidelines, and are subject to testing in accordance with HSE public guidelines.

“HSE guidelines, supported by internal An Garda Síochána Chief Medical Officer guidance, have been circulated to all staff members of An Garda Síochána on a number of occasions.”

A further statement said that an Garda Síochána “maintains effective operational resilience” and that Covid-19 has not impacted on front line Garda services at this time, “although the current impact of Covid-19 is more significant at this time”.

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