UCC lecturers accuse Irish state of putting Direct Provision residents at risk following reports of Covid-19 outbreak at Cork centre

UCC lecturers accuse Irish state of putting Direct Provision residents at risk following reports of Covid-19 outbreak at Cork centre

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Lecturers at University College Cork have accused the Irish government of putting the health and lives of Direct Provision residents at risk, following reports of a Covid-19 outbreak at a centre in Cork.

The Echo revealed this morning that an outbreak of Covid-19 has reportedly been identified in the Kinsale Roundabout Direct Provision centre.

In a letter on HSE headed paper, seen by The Echo, residents at the centre were informed of four positive cases.

Those individuals are now understood to be off-site while they recover from the virus.

Dr Jacqui O’Riordan, School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork and Mike Fitzgibbon, lecturer in International Development at UCC have been working with asylum seekers since the mid-90s.

UCC lecturers Dr Jacqui O'Riordan and Mike Fitzgibbon.
UCC lecturers Dr Jacqui O'Riordan and Mike Fitzgibbon.

Speaking to The Echo, both UCC lecturers said the Irish state must take responsibility for the situation.

“Months ago now the dangers of continuing to accommodate people in congregated settings was made clear,” said Dr O’Riordan.

“Yet, residents in Direct Provision centres continue to endure crowded conditions, with little personal space and where shared spaces are the order of the day.

“We need to be clear: by continuing to stand over these conditions the Irish State needs to answer for its critical role in making people sick,” she added.

“Other, more dignified accommodation options are possible as are more humane ways of dealing with international protection applicants.” Mr Fitzgibbon stated:

“The totally inadequate responses from the Department of Justice and the HSE are continuing to threaten the health and lives of people in Direct Provision settings.

“The HSE avoided taking action to remedy this crowding by classifying groups of people living together in a room as ‘household units’, which verges on the bizarre.

“Many of these people sharing these spaces have little in common, often not speaking the same languages, and from widely different cultures,” he added.

“They are not ‘households’ and to label them as such is cynical.” The HSE letter seen by The Echo also stated that the small number of people who were considered to be close contacts of the confirmed cases were “contacted and advised and transferred off-site for self-isolation”.

The letter also asked residents remaining in the centre to take up testing being offered.

“Two rounds of testing have taken place in September and we are very disappointed that only a third of the residents took up the offer of a test on these occasions,” the letter stated.

Residents have been asked to attend for testing on Saturday, as well as continuing with social distancing and hygiene measures.

The letter continued: “The situation is potentially very serious for you and for your fellow residents and staff.

“Please follow the advice above and come for testing on Saturday, if you are invited to do so, to stop the spread of Covid-19.” The Echo made contact with the HSE to verify the content of the document.

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