The Department of Health is “urgently” seeking extra staff to work on a new dedicated mandatory hotel quarantine (MHQ) team for up to a year, according to internal civil service documents seen by The Irish Times.
This is despite the system being planned for an initial period of three months, due to expire in early June.
A call for applications of interest for secondment to the team was circulated to Government bodies.
In a note circulated to civil servants on April 7th, less than two weeks after the first people checked into the hotels, the Department of Health wrote that “the workload [associated with MHQ] has moved far beyond what is possible to continue to support within a small team”.
“Significant additional resources are urgently needed, particularly of experienced civil servants in policy, legal, financial procurement and legislative areas. Experience in operational management would also be extremely valuable.”
Those applying were told that at the outset, the department had “an urgent need for additional staff” on a temporary basis for a minimum of three months “which is likely to be extended by six to nine months”.
Asked why the positions might need to be filled for up to a year, a spokeswoman for the department said that the enabling legislation is valid for three months, until early June, after which it can be extended by a resolution of both houses of the Oireachtas.
“Any staff assignments would ideally need to be capable of continuation in the event of the duration of the mandatory quarantine system being extended for a further period.”
The Opposition called for clarity on how long the system is going to be in place.
“The Government ignored calls for the implementation of travel checks and mandatory hotel quarantine for the best part of 10 months. They were dragged kicking and screaming into accepting the clear public health advice. This has resulted in a rushed effort and a lack of preparedness,” said Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane.