Tag Archives: COVID-19

From top: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan; Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly; tweet from Socialist TD Mick Barry

Yesterday afternoon.

Minister for Finance and Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe only answered pre-submitted questions from journalists at a press briefing in Government Buildings.

The journalists weren’t allowed to ask follow-up questions.

Also yesterday afternoon, in the Dáil, Fine Gael TD and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan refused to answer a single question that TDs raised about health matters concerning Covid-19, after castigating the TDs who called for the Dáil to sit with reduced numbers.

Among the contributions from TDs was that of Fianna Fáil Stephen Donnelly who told the Dáil that he was told that out of 200 members of staff at one nursing home, 70 had tested positive for Covid-19 and that 19 of the home’s 100 residents had also tested positive.

After the TDs raised their concerns, acting chairman John Lahart told the Dáil: “The Minister for Health departed the chamber to attend a briefing of all party and group leaders on Covid-19. The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will conclude the debate for the Government.”

However, instead of answering any of the questions, Ms Madigan told those present that she had taken notes and that Mr Harris would get back to them.

Of the press briefing with Mr Donohoe, Miriam Lord, in The Irish Times, reports:

“Having asked them [journalists] to attend (a small number, in accordance with the necessary restrictions), they were then asked to pre-submit their questions. These were read out by Paschal Donohoe’s press aide, who then replied as the mute hacks looked on.

“Disgracefully, they were not allowed to ask follow-up questions, so Paschal could effectively say what he liked without being challenged. Microphones were not provided because of hygiene issues. The reporters could have been heard without them, but they weren’t given the chance. This doesn’t even happen in the White House. But it happens here, in Government Buildings. And Hungary.

“A trivial thing to worry about in the current, terrible scheme of things. Or is it?”

Meanwhile, in the Dáil, the Heath Minister Simon Harris addressed those present after which Ms Madigan listened to questions from other TDs.

Apart from Mr Donnelly’s questions, other contributions included concerns about coronavirus test numbers, GP concerns, social welfare payments for people over the age of 66, concerns about people in direct provision, personal protective equipment, student nurses, people in receipt of medicinal cannabis, domestic violence issues and mental health services.

After hearing the contributions, this is what the Dáil heard:

Joespha Madigan: “I thank the deputies for their contributions. However, the members here today who have insisted on this Dáil sitting have shown a complete disregard for our national fight to contain Covid-19. Shame on you.

They have forced us to stray from home rather than stay at home, which is completely contrary to public health guidelines and nothing to do with any public representative shirking his or her responsibilities.

“As the Minister, Deputy Harris, said, there is no reason we could not have done this remotely. We have already seen the European Parliament achieve that. As he said, with a little ingenuity, it could be achieved. I just wanted to say that at the outset.

“We are learning more about Covid-19 but there is much we do not know. In particular, we do not know how long this public health emergency is going to last. As the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, said earlier, many lives have already been cruelly taken by this virus. I would like to express my condolences to all of those who have been bereaved.”


Ms Madigan had this exchange with Mr Donnelly:

Stephen Donnelly: “My understanding was that the wrap-up would include answers to questions raised by the House. In the time left, will the Minister actually address any of the questions we have come here to ask?”

Madigan: “I think the Chairman made very clear that the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, is with the Taoiseach at present…”

Donnelly: “Deputy Madigan has been here.”

Madigan: “…and with all the leaders of Opposition parties and groups. He has been giving them a briefing on Covid-19 since about 3.30pm.”

Donnelly: “Is Deputy Madigan going to answer anything that has been raised?”

John Lahart: “One speaker, please.”

Madigan: “As Deputy Donnelly knows, the Minister, Deputy Harris, was here. He was here when Deputy Donnelly spoke and he was here for every other speaker except for a few. I have taken notes of those concerns for him. He has taken detailed notes of all the Members’ concerns and I am satisfied that he will get back to them with comprehensive responses on everything.”

Donnelly: “Is Deputy Madigan going to address them?”

Madigan: “It is a bit opportunistic, when the Minister is in a very important meeting…”

Donnelly: “I am not having a go at the Minister for Health. I am asking if a Government Minister is going to answer any of the questions raised by the Parliament.”

Madigan: “He will come back with answers to all the Members’ concerns.”

Donnelly: “Is Deputy Madigan going to answer any of them?”

Madigan: “I can only go that far. With respect, I am not the Minister for Health and he cannot bilocate. Deputy Donnelly can appreciate that.

Donnelly: “Deputy Madigan is not answering anything that has been raised.”

Ms Madigan then went on to acknowledge “the incredible response” of the frontline staff across departments and agencies, in the health sector and in social welfare and other sectors.

Read the debate in full here or watch in back in full here

Yesterday: Coronafurious

This afternoon.

Spotted in the window of Happy’s News and Booze in Dublin 8.

Colm Cronin tweetz:

“At a time when some companies and shops are exploiting the Covid-19 Pandemic to fleece customers, it was heartening to see a local shop offering a discount and also still advocating social distancing measures! Kudos to Happy’s in Dublin 8.”


Thanks Colm

This morning.

At a press briefing in Government Buildings, Tánaiste Simon Coveney was asked how long the “cocooning” restriction will continue.

He said:

“As you know the Government takes its advice from the chief medical officer [Tony Holohan] and his team and the national public health emergency team but I do think people do need to realise that these restrictions may go on for some time.

“I think it’s wrong to put a timeline on it. We’ve set an initial period [until Easter] but I think that it may well be that we will need to go beyond that initial guideline but again that will be a decision taken with the best public health advice that we can get.”

The “cocooning” phase affects people over 70 and those who are medically vulnerable.

They are not allowed to leave their homes and are to have no interaction or minimal interaction with other people. It’s currently scheduled to remain in place until Easter Sunday, April 12.

Previously: “There’s No Fate But What We Make For Ourselves”

CEO of the HSE Paul Reid; text tweeted by Mr Reid last night

This morning.

RTÉ broadcaster Audrey Carville told Morning Ireland listeners that due to a global shortage of material used in laboratories to carry out coronavirus tests, called reagent, just 1,500 tests are being processed a day in Ireland – leading to a significant delay in test results.

Despite this, the deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn last night said the Irish health authorities are still aiming to carry out between 10,000 and 15,000 tests within the next two weeks.

Also last night the CEO of the HSE Paul Reid tweeted a plea for the public to bear with the HSE as it sought to “fix this”.

His tweet followed the HSE apologising to those waiting for test results. This apology came after a nursing home resident who was tested for Covid-19 on March 23 died on Tuesday night. Their test result had not come through by the time of their death.

Further this this, Mr Reid spoke to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ this morning that the HSE was chasing around the world for reagent.

From their discussion…

Seán O’Rourke: “It would appear, Paul though that perhaps the answer to that particular problem with the reagent is under our noses in the Irish pharma companies. According to the Irish Times, and we’ll be talking to one of their representatives in a little while, that can actually be done here in Ireland?”

Paul Reid: “Yeah, well, when I did, which is being quoted, the message I sent out last night, which was asking the public to bear with us because there will be a few strands to the solution for this which we were working throughout the night on and it’s a combination of, firstly, we have secured, literally overnight, the capacity to transfer some of the queue that we have for testing to a very, reputable international organisation based in Europe.

“And that will start to address the queue that we already have. That’s the first solution that we have.”


Reid:The industry is telling us the increase that they have seen and the [global] demand for these reagents has gone up by over 1,000% in the last few days.”

O’Rourke: “Yeah but did we not have first move or advantage? We woke up to this thing at least we were told we were ahead of the game, ahead of those other countries, certainly the United States?

Reid: “We were and we have been and we continue to be in terms of our testing volumes that we’re doing and we want to stay there and it is a very difficult one for us and we are working on those, three solutions, three very different solutions – getting some of it tested abroad, some supply of kit from China that will take a week to ten days to come through, with some risk associated with it, and equally, in negotiations, right throughout today, right throughout all yesterday, calls later with Irish pharma companies, to see the capacity of their supply to significantly ramp up and help us with this really national crisis.”

O’Rourke: “What’s your best guess or best estimate, this is about more than guessing obviously, for where we will be at in the numbers being tested and with those tests analysed say a week from today?”

Reid: “Well exactly where the minister said, is where we all want to get to. We want to get to those testings of about…between 10,000 and 15,000 per day. It’s not going to happen overnight so I want to be very clear with the public. We’re at currently completed tests in the labs about 2,600 per day so we’re not going to get to that number over a week or ten days. But with the three interventions that I’ve just described that we’ve put in place, we will significantly ramp up but it will take us longer.

“We had always said it would take us longer to get 15,000 per day so that will take time. But over the next ten days we’re working around the clock to really break this issue.”

Listen back in full here


Also on Morning Ireland this morning, Professor Paul Moynagh, head of the Kathleen Lonsdale institute for human health at NUI Maynooth, also told Ms Carville that serological testing – a test for antibodies for coronavirus which would indicate a person has previously had the virus – is going to be a “really important tool” that will go “hand in hand” with the other tests being carried out.

He said such antibody testing would be initially very useful for healthcare workers, as it may lead them to securing protection from the virus and allow them to return to work.

Asked if such testing is already being carried out, he said: “That is just being evaluated. My understanding is that it is being evaluated at the moment. A number of other countries are evaluating it. The UK, I know, is evaluating this.”

He added that they would have to be “robustly tested” and said “certainly, it’s going to be a really important arm in terms of the testing regime in the country”.


Listen back to Morning Ireland interview in full here.


From top: One room shared by seven asylum-seeking men in a newly opened direct provision centre in Ennis, Co Clare; Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton

This morning.

RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke interviewed the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan about direct provision and Covid-19.

Mr O’Rourke started the interview by telling listeners that the Department of Justice has made more than 650 new direct provision beds available for the Covid-19 emergency.

The group Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland [MASI] last night tweeted pictures of some of these new beds which would appear to show the same crowded conditions as ‘old’ direct provision centres.

Asked about this, and MASI’s claim that seven asylum-seeking men were forced to share a bedroom that would suit one person in Ennis, Co Clare (pic above), Mr Flanagan mentioned that he had seen “misleading information on social media”.

Mr Flanagan wasn’t asked to specify to what he was referring.

From the interview:

Seán O’Rourke: “Are asylum seekers in a position to follow the social distancing [two metres] guidelines put in place by your own Government and its health advisors.”

Charlie Flanagan: “Good morning, Seán. And this is one of the many challenges that we’re facing as a society. Obviously myself and Minister [David] Stanton, and indeed everybody across the Department of Justice and our agencies, we’re very concerned at the situation and, indeed, the vulnerability of people in direct provision.

“People who are awaiting their applications to be dealt with as to whether or not they may be in a position, legally, to remain for he foreseeable future in our state. And I believe it’s important that the concerns that you mentioned that were met. That’s why we managed, after considerable amount of work, to procure a further 650 new beds which are now coming on stream.

“That will alleviate something of the pressure that’s on many of our centres in terms of complying with the Government and public health guidelines.”

Seán O’Rourke: “Yeah, well I see a statement responding to your announcement from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland [MASI] saying they’re deeply troubled because, for instance, new direct provision centres, have the same congregated settings where asylum seekers, they share intimate living spaces like bedrooms, communal bathrooms, dining areas, often in large numbers.”

Flanagan: “Yeah, and that’s why we’re moving to mitigate the problems and deal with the issues. Obviously, we’re dealing with people here who are in a congregated setting, some of the centres are big. Some of the centres are not so big. But I have to say we are working very positively with all of the management in the centres, right across the country and there are just about 40 centres.

“They are all of different dimensions but I’m satisfied that the new regulations are now taking place right across the direct provision stage.

“We have, for example, the provision of gels and soaps advices, often times required in different language and translators. I’m not underestimating this challenge but what I’m saying is that what Minister Stanton, myself and my officials are working very hard in order to ensure that the vulnerable are dealt with in a way that’s right and proper in the circumstances.”

O’Rourke: “These 650 beds that have been announced. Are they just being made available on a temporary basis or what is the plan?”

Flanagan: “Well, obviously, direct provision is changing. It’s a challenge that we’ve had in terms of its organisation and management even before the crisis. What we have done now is acquired hotel accommodation in Dublin, in Galway, in Cork and, at the same time, however, we are engaged in procuring new centres in Cahircaveen, for example, in Rosslare Harbour, in Tullamore, in my own constituency. So this is an ever-changing scenario because we want to ensure that our centres meet our own national standards and…”

O’Rourke: “I’m just wondering who gets these 650 beds? Are they all being put to use or are some of them being held back for use, for instance, for isolation purposes?”

Flanagan: “Oh, no. I expect that they would all be brought into use at the earliest opportunity. Obviously when we speak about vulnerable people in society, we talk about people over 65, we talk about people who have underlying or pre-existing medical conditions. In Direct Provision, for example, we have a mere 57 people of the entire 5,600 over the age of 65.

“I’m assuming that these will be the prime candidates for relocation. Similarly people who are vulnerable and obviously looking at areas, for example, where there may be small rooms in centres, that they would be smaller…”

O’Rourke: “Yeah because, I don’t know if you’ve seen the statement form MASI…”

Flanagan: “Yeah, I see them on a daily basis Seán. And…”

O’Rourke: “Yeah, they’re talking, for instance, about the centre in Ennis. A new direct provision centre in Ennis where seven asylum-seeking men were forced to share a bedroom that would suit one person?”

Flanagan: “Yeah, well, I don’t know the size or dimensions of the room. I have seen some, some misleading information on social media. What I am saying, however, and what both Minister Stanton and myself are really keen to ensure is that, for example, social distancing, which obviously is a vital tool in protecting good health, ensuring that we save lives, ensuring that we stop the spread is if we can have our rooms in our centres confirm to these particular standards. And that’s what we’re working towards. And that’s what we will achieve.”

O’Rourke: “And what about health workers who have been living in direct provision. We’ve come across cases of that as well.”

Flanagan:Many of these are working. Many of their talents have been put to good use. And I believe again that is one of the advantages of…”

O’Rourke: “So why didn’t you prioritise for this new accommodation for instance?”

Flanagan: “Yes, well, well, there will be people who are vulnerable, there will be people who are in centres where we are not in a position to comply with the social distancing and I would expect over the next few days you will see a relocation. Firstly, the more vulnerable and then people who are in conditions that might require attention.”

This morning’s interview with the minister follows hundreds of academics in health, law, human rights and migration yesterday publishing an open letter in which they called for own-door accommodation and individualised access to sanitation and eating facilities to every family unit and single person in the international protection system.

They say the the necessary accommodation is available to provide for this and, to not do so, could see the State falling foul of its legal requirements.

It also follows a campaign by refugee and asylum seeker support groups calling on the Government to move out “at risk” residents from the crowded centres where social distancing is, they say, impossible.

Listen back to the interview in full here.

Previously: “Public Health Measures Must Apply To All”

No Room To Isolate

He’s back.

Harry Prendergast writes:

Christy’s back. This week is a bit tougher than last week, so he wanted to give ye a lift. Share and have a laugh, and remember this won’t last forever.

Today’s song is Save Tonight, by Eagle Eye Cherry. An ode to how we’ve all gone a bit native, if native means sitting at home in your shorts eating biscuits.

Keep the heads up. If you’re low this week, you have your comrades everywhere.

Leave requests for Harry/Christy below.

Harry Prendergast

Previously: Perspire Like Nobody’s Watching

Smells Like Sweaty Tee Spirit

How’s It Goin’ There Everybody

Member of the Defence Forces or HSE at a coronavirus test centre set up on the LÉ Samuel Beckett, at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2, last month

This morning.

RTÉ is reporting that a nursing home resident who was tested for Covid-19 nine days ago died last night.

The resident’s test results had not come through by the time of their death.

RTÉ is also reporting a nursing home resident is very ill in hospital and still waiting for their Covid-19 test result, after a swab being taken eight days ago.

Fergal Bowers has tweeted: