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  • 850 beds added to system in last 2 weeks to facilitate social distancing & isolation where required
  • 4 dedicated self-isolation facilities now secured
  • Partnership with HSE & Safetynet for public health advice phone line for centre staff

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, T.D., and his colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for Immigration, Integration and Equality, David Stanton, T.D., have today announced further measures to protect and support Direct Provision residents during the COVID-19 crisis.

These new measures will further support offsite self-isolation for residents, where required, and will see the introduction of a national clinical telephone service, which will provide public health advice to centre management to help them to better support their residents at this time. These measures are additional to the 650 new beds announced by the Ministers on 31st March.

Making the announcement today, Minister Flanagan said:

We have now procured three additional facilities for offsite self-isolation meaning there can be dedicated facilities in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Dundalk. This brings our total self-isolation capacity to 299 rooms at this time.

“We have partnered with the HSE and non-profit (Section 39) organisations to ensure that residents in our centres who require self-isolation can be cared for in these facilities which will have health and social care personnel on site. 

“We are continuing to work very hard to tackle the challenges of this pandemic and expect to continue to augment facilities in the time ahead.”

Residents staying in self-isolation facilities will have their own bedroom and their own bathroom.  The facility in Dublin opened on Monday (6 April) and the three other facilities will be open by the end of this week.

Minister Stanton provided an update on the measures that have been taken since the beginning of the crisis and on how some of the 650 new beds announced last week (31 March) are being used:

“In consultation with the HSE, around 600 of our residents have been relocated to new accommodation over the last three weeks to support social distancing in centres and cocooning measures for the most vulnerable. We know that this has been challenging for our residents and centre staff and we thank them for their understanding and support. All residents aged 65 or older have now been cocooned due to their particular vulnerability to this virus. The HSE is identifying residents requiring cocooning on serious medical grounds. Once identified, we are putting in place the required supports as a priority.

Centre managers and their staff are performing a vital service to the State in continuing to provide the necessary care and support to their residents during the COVID-19 crisis. In partnership with the HSE and Safetynet, the Department is putting in place a national clinical telephone service to provide public health advice to support them. It will also be used to advise, support and work with locations where vulnerable groups are present relating to the implementation of COVID-19 guidelines and measures.

Notes:

Intensive work has been underway in the Department since the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis to ensure that, to the best of our ability, we protect the health and welfare of asylum seekers and refugees availing of our accommodation services.  In all measures we are taking, the Department is guided by the HSE and the National Public Health Emergency Team. We are working in particular with the HSE National Social Inclusion team and following all its advice. Our centre managers are working closely with the Department, the HSE and residents to ensure that centres are safe and that guidelines on social distancing are observed.

Last week (31 March), we announced that 650 new temporary hotel beds have been procured following intensive negotiations by the Department within a very short space of time. They are being used in a number of ways including:

1.       to support the measures required for vulnerable residents;

2.       to provide offsite accommodation for self-isolation; and

3.       to help with social distancing measures by reducing overall numbers in some existing centres.

This increase in capacity is a critical part of our overall strategy to protect our residents and is additional to the new accommodation centres which we have opened recently in Tullamore, Rosslare Harbour and Caherciveen. To date this year, over 1,550 beds have been procured by the Department.

The majority of the 650 beds are being used to support social distancing by reducing the number of residents in existing communal centres. In consultation with the HSE, a large number of transfers of residents to this new accommodation was completed over the weekend and a small number of additional transfers took place early this week. The vast majority of these rooms are twin rooms, accommodating two people. If any person is being accommodated in these locations based on an identified vulnerability (age or medical condition), they have their own bedroom and their own bathroom to facilitate their cocooning.

One of the procured hotels in Dublin is providing our first offsite self-isolation facility with health care supports provided onsite by the HSE and social care and support for residents provided by the Peter McVerry Trust.  This facility opened on Monday, 6th April. Further offsite self-isolation facilities have now been contracted in Cork, Limerick and Dundalk bringing our total number of offsite self-isolation rooms to 299. We are continuing to examine our needs for self-isolation on a regional basis and we expect to make further announcements in relation to this. In offsite self-isolation facilities all residents have their own bedroom and their own bathroom.

Cocooning measures are required for people who fall within one of the six criteria of serious medical illnesses published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) on 26th March 2020. These are the specific criteria that are helping to determine who in our centres is considered vulnerable at this time.


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