Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick has raised the issue of ‘mislaid or lost’ Covid tests in the direct provision centre in Carroll Village (Dundalk). Last week it was reported that 80 Covid tests were carried out on residents of the Carroll Village centre on 20th September and that those swabs were subsequently mislaid or lost. According to Deputy Fitzpatrick there has been concern locally in relation to the news.
“I raise the issue of direct provision and quarantining in the Dundalk area. In the centre of Dundalk, the Carroll village apartment centre is currently used as a direct provision centre and has been since 2005. The number of asylum seekers it houses varies from around 50 to 80.
“The building itself is on the old P.J. Carroll site at the northern end of the town and is very well known to locals. Last week, it was reported on local radio that 80 Covid tests were carried out on residents of the Carroll Village centre on 20 September and that those swabs were subsequently mislaid or lost.
“The Taoiseach can imagine that this has caused great concern locally and many questions are now being asked. I understand that subsequent tests have been carried out. We need to find out exactly how these tests could go missing. It is important we get answers and find out if this was an isolated, once-off case or if there were many more cases. We need clarification as to whether this was an isolated case.
“On quarantine, a local hotel on the outskirts of Dundalk, not far from the Carroll Village centre, is being used as a quarantine centre. Again, my understanding is that those in direct provision who need to self-isolate or quarantine are being directed to this facility for a two-week isolation period. I believe the centre is housing people from all over the country for this purpose. As the Taoiseach can imagine, this is causing great concern for people locally. The local hotel in question has been used for this purpose since the beginning of September.
“These are real concerns that need to be urgently addressed. The people of Dundalk, like those of the rest of the country, have made tremendous sacrifice and effort to combat this virus. We need to ensure we all work together and follow the same guidelines so we can all get back to some form of normality,” concluded Deputy Fitzpatrick.
In response An Taoiseach insisted that protecting those living in Direct Provision accommodation remained an absolute priority for the government.
“Protecting those living in direct provision accommodation centres from any Covid-19 outbreak has been an absolute priority of Government. A comprehensive programme of serial Covid-19 testing by the HSE has been completed across 66 accommodation centres. My understanding is about 3,300 tests have been undertaken in direct provision centres and about 18 positive tests have emerged from that testing programme. That is a positivity rate of 0.53% among residents and staff. I will endeavour to bring clarity to the points the Deputy raised in the context of local media highlighting these issues.
As the Deputy knows, there are two international protection accommodation services facilities in Dundalk, Carroll Village and the Carnbeg re-accommodation facility. Carroll Village independent living is a block of apartment-style independent living units housing mostly family groups. The HSE’s investigation into the specific incident the Deputy highlighted found there was an isolated logistics issue whereby swabs did not reach the laboratory within the required timeframe. As the swabs had expired, they had to be retaken in line with standard practice. The HSE has apologised for the inconvenience this caused to the residents concerned and it conducted on-site follow-up testing on Friday, 2 October to complete this serial testing and all results have now been communicated at this point.
“The Carnbeg Hotel, which opened earlier this year, is used as emergency, temporary accommodation for people who willingly left their accommodation centre at the start of the pandemic and are now seeking to be re-accommodated by the International Protection Accommodation Service, IPAS.
To be clear, the Departments of Justice and Equality and Education have confirmed the Carnbeg Hotel was not affected by the retaking of tests in recent days. This facility is used for 14-day quarantine prior to re-accommodation in a dedicated accommodation centre. It has a regular turnover of temporary residents. These residents had been living in private accommodation located throughout the country prior to requesting re-accommodation from the Department. That is the situation as of now,” stated An Taoiseach.