THE Department of Public Health Mid West has warned it is seeing “concerning trends of inconsistent and poor practises when it comes to adhering to Public Health guidelines in the workplace” particularly in the Limerick region, where cases of COVID-19 have surged in recent weeks.
Cases in workplaces have also been linked to house parties and indoors gatherings in recent days.
This has been “very discouraging and frustrating for businesses who have reopened to be faced with possible closure again due to Covid outbreaks, and it is important that all employees and managers understand their responsibilities in the workplace”, the Department said.
Daily case numbers in Limerick dropped significantly since last Friday (78) to (24) yesterday, however the 235 cases identified in the region, over the past four days, are still too high, public health warned.
Dr Mai Mannix, director of Public Health Mid West, commended the public response in Limerick, but she warned that recent cases have been “fluctuating”. She said cases normally decrease between Saturdays and Mondays “due to lower uptake in testing at the weekend, and in light of society being more active, we will need to see a consistent decrease in cases on a week-by-week basis”.
In a statement this afternoon, the Department urged all unvaccinated adults to avail of free self-referral COVID-19 test facilities in Limerick, “as new cases in the community continue to have a negative impact on businesses and services across the city and county”.
According to provisional data over the past 14 days, over 770 COVID-19 cases have been identified in Limerick, more than 80 in Clare, and more than 50 in north Tipperary.
Local contact tracers are currently investigating COVID-19 situations in 50 workplaces, involving 141 cases and an estimated 324 close contacts in the Mid-West region, with the vast majority in retail, supermarkets, hair salons, beauticians, offices, and factories.
“Public Health Mid-West acknowledges the preparation that workplaces have done to protect their customers and staff from COVID-19, while re-opening their businesses, however, we continue to see concerning trends of inconsistent and poor practises when it comes to adhering to Public Health guidelines, largely among workplaces that have reopened over the past four weeks.”
However it said it is still seeing “evidence of people who are confirmed close contacts attending work when they should be restricting their movements for at least 10 days, pending a negative PCR test result”.
“Staff congregating or engaging in close contact in break rooms, locker rooms, and communal areas without masks” is also occurring.
“A number of workplace situations have been connected to outbreaks linked to indoor gatherings and house parties,” the Department added.
It also noted that in some workplaces where there is close contact with customers or clients (such as hair salons and beauticians), PPE (gloves, masks, aprons, etc) needs to be changed after each customer as “some workplaces are not doing this, resulting in contaminated PPE”.
Dr Mannix, said the business community “has an added responsibility to protect its staff and customers, which in turn will reduce the level of infection in their respective communities, and if measures are lax amid a high incidence rate in the community, businesses are at increased risk of small to large outbreaks”.
“Our department is prioritising the safe return of businesses and is eager to connect with the business community over the coming weeks to ensure just that,” she added.
A free self-referral walk-in and drive-through COVID-19 testing centre at St Joseph’s Health Campus on Mulgrave Street is operational, from 11am to 6.15pm daily up to and including Monday, June 21. No appointment is needed, bring photo ID and provide a mobile number so you can be contacted with your results.
On Monday, the HSE extended its online booking system for free COVID-19 tests at Eastpoint Business Park, Ballysimon Road, which is operating from 8am to 4pm daily. These tests can be booked via https://www2.hse.ie/