Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
Direct Provision System
I want to assure the Deputy that my Department is doing everything it can to protect the health and welfare of residents and staff in our accommodation centres, as well as that of the wider community. My Department is working closely with the HSE in doing so, and while the HSE advice has evolved over time, we have been assured by both it and the Office of the Chief Medical Officer that our approach is appropriate.
All centres, including the Temple Accommodation Centre, are following the guidelines for our centres that have been published by the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre. These are publicly available at its website www.hpsc.ie.
That guidance exists precisely because it is recognised that congregated settings such as Direct Provision centres present specific challenges in this pandemic.
The Temple Accommodation Centre currently has 54 residents onsite, which is well below its contracted capacity of 125 residents. This reduced capacity is supporting residents to observe social and physical distancing at this time.
Any resident in the centre who has tested positive or is identified as a close contact through the HSE’s contact tracing system, has been moved to a dedicated offsite self-isolation facility. There, supports are available for the duration of their period of isolation until such time as the HSE considers that they can safely return to the centre. We have opened four dedicated self-isolation facilities (with capacity for 299 people) in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Dundalk. Residents in these facilities have their own bedroom and their own bathroom.
While there are three on-site self-isolation rooms in the Temple Accommodation Centre, I can inform the Deputy that there are no residents self-isolating or cocooning on-site at this time.
Specific arrangements have been put in place in the Temple Accommodation Centre to support social and physical distancing when using the laundry room or the communal kitchen. No more than two people are allowed to use the laundry room at the same time and a rota system has been put in place in the shared kitchen with a limit on the number of persons allowed in the kitchen. All residents have been advised of these measures and there is adequate signage advising of same. Meals are delivered to any person self-isolating or cocooning onsite, however, as I have advised the Deputy, there are no such persons presently in the Temple Accommodation Centre.
During this time, centre managers have also been advised to increase the standard and frequency of cleaning throughout the centres, paying particular attention to communal areas. A regular supply of hand sanitiser for all centres is in place and this is distributed to centres as needed. Other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is distributed as needed and in line with HPSC guidelines on its appropriate use in residential settings. In addition to the regular supplies of hand sanitiser, the Temple Accommodation Centre has also received 1,400 face masks, 1,000 medical aprons and 1,000 pairs of latex gloves. These items were distributed to the centre on 21 April 2020.
We have approximately 7,700 residents living in our accommodation centres, of whom approximately 1,500 residents are living in own-door accommodation. While all own door accommodation is fully utilised at this time, it is our practice to prioritise families for such accommodation when it becomes available.