HSE maintains silence over Covid outbreak at Limerick direct provision centre

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The Health Service Executive (HSE) says it is managing an outbreak of Covid-19 in a Limerick Direct Provision Centre, the Limerick Post can reveal.

It’s understood residents at Hanratty’s Hotel asylum accommodation centre on Glentworth Street received letters from the HSE following an outbreak of the deadly virus.

A letter, dated August 1 and bearing the HSE logo, was delivered to the offices of the Limerick Post explaining that “some cases of coronavirus Covid-19 infection have been diagnosed in residents of Hanrattys”.

It added that “managers and staff are taking all the necessary measures to reduce the spread of the virus”.

When contacted, Hanrattys referred the Limerick Post to the Department of Justice for comment.

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However, the Department stated that “confirmation of any cases and testing is a matter for the HSE.”

A spokesman for the HSE would not specifically say if they had sent the letter.

He told the Limerick Post: “The HSE can confirm that this is a standard letter that we use when there is a number of cases in a congregated setting.”

“As you are aware, the HSE cannot provide further details on Direct Provision Centres affected by Covid-19 nor can we comment on individual tests or results of residents of these centres”.

He added that there had been “a national increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and they were urging the public to adhere to public health advice”.

Initially, the HSE spokesman told the Limerick Post: “Direct Provision is the responsibility of the Department of Justice and queries in relation to same should be directed to that government department.”

“There is currently a national planned programme for voluntary testing for residents in Direct provision sites, (which) will commence in the coming weeks once plans and engagement with relevant parties is completed,” he added.

In a subsequent statement, the spokesman told the Limerick Post: “The HSE can confirm that a letter was sent out to residents of a direct provision centre in Limerick as the result of a number of Covid-19 cases being diagnosed in that facility.

“All cases and close contacts have been identified, contacted, advised and managed appropriately according to current Public Health guidelines.”

“We cannot comment on individual cases due to patient confidentiality,” he added.

He would not disclose how many cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed among residents, how many tests had been carried out, how many residents were awaiting test results or if tests were being conducted on-site or at a Covid test centre.

He would not say who was paying for the tests nor when the HSE was first made aware of the outbreak at the centre.

Like all other asylum accommodation centres, Hanratty’s is subject to regular Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) inspections

According to the last published RIA inspection report dated June 28, 2019, more than 200 residents at Hanratty’s were accommodated in “twin”, “triple”, “quad”, and “five-bed” rooms.

One three-bedroom had a maximum capacity for four residents and was filled.

The report stated that on October 2, 2019 it was confirmed that a number of steps had been taken to address issues raised during the inspection report the previous June.

A number of bathrooms and bedrooms were resealed, cleaned and painted, and light shades replaced.

Residents were informed it was illegal and dangerous to smoke inside the building.

The follow-up report last October also stated that, in one instance, “a wet room has been cleaned and painted and knife removed from vent”.

Indoor facilities for residents include wifi, board games and newspapers; Sky TV and a private room for meetings and prayer. Residents also have membership of the local library,” the report stated.