Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
450. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if masks or other personal protective equipment are being made available to gardaí who are on the front line during the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6214/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 450 and 495 together.
As the Deputy is aware, An Garda Síochána is carrying out extensive operations in support of the public health guidelines and restrictions which are in place to prevent or reduce spread of the Covid-19 virus in the community. In that way, An Garda Síochána is working to protect public health during this pandemic.
The Commissioner is by law responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the distribution of resources and deployment of equipment. The Commissioner also has responsibility for the safety, health and welfare of Garda members.
I am informed that An Garda Síochána provides all Garda Divisions and Specialist Units with PPE on a weekly basis from central stores. I understand that PPE supplies are then distributed by each Division to all Garda Stations under their aegis, to ensure that Garda members and staff have adequate supplies available to meet operational requirements. I understand that a Divisional Inspector is responsible for the distribution of PPE in each Division and stocks are replenished on request.
I am informed that the following is a list of the types of PPE supplies distributed on a weekly basis:
- Hand Sanitiser
- Disposable Gloves
- Face Masks
- Visors/Face Shields
- Disposable Anti-Bacterial Wipes & Sprays
- White Suits/Shoe Covers
- Plastic Aprons
In terms of volume, I understand that to date, approximately 2 million pairs of disposable gloves, over 200,000 face masks and 50,000 litres of hand sanitiser in refillable plastic bottles have been distributed.
I am informed by An Garda Síochána that its guidelines for use by frontline Gardaí of personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves and facemasks, are informed by a dynamic risk-based approach and in accordance with HSE/public health guidance.
I am further informed by the Garda authorities that in line with such advice, from Friday 15 May 2020, members of An Garda Síochána have been directed to wear official-issue face coverings in situations where they are unable to maintain recommended social distancing and may be in close contact with a person or persons for more than 15 minutes.
While I understand that gloves and face masks are available to Garda members on patrol and checkpoint duties, the Garda authorities have informed me that as a matter of course face coverings will not be worn on outdoor duties including checkpoints where social distancing can be maintained.
In line with their risk-based approach, a number of designated vehicles are assigned to each Garda Division, to respond to incidents in which suspected or confirmed cases of Covid19 are a factor. I am informed that members deployed to these vehicles have access to full PPE necessary to ensure an appropriate response to such incidents and that they are deployed by Garda management as required.
The Commissioner has informed me that An Garda Síochána’s guidelines are kept under review based on public health advice.
Finally, I understand that An Garda Síochána is working closely with other Government agencies including the Health Service Executive (HSE), Irish Prison Service, Enterprise Ireland, OGP, IDA and community based organisations to ensure the supply chain is maintained and that frontline Garda members are provided with the appropriate equipment to enable them to carry out their duties with confidence in this challenging period.