Gardai insist they have fully complied with HSE guidelines

The Gardai have insisted that they have been complying with all HSE guidelines, in the wake of claims that frontline staff in Meath had been told to return to work despite being close contacts of someone who was Covid-19 positive.

The Independent has reported that an email was circulated to all members in Navan on Monday following a confirmed Covid case.

It is claimed the e mail told those who had been asymptomatic for five days and tested negative should return to work.

HSE guidelines which say that anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case should stay at home and isolate for 14 days, even if they test negative for Covid-19.

However a statement from the Garda Press Office says "Gardai continue to comply with HSE guidelines in respect of staff based on the determination as to whether they are close contacts or casual contacts."

Deputy Johnny Guirke said he the situation showed the huge need for more gardai for Meath.

"Last August I said that Meath had the lowest Gardai numbers per head of population in the country with just 338 in the county. I had requested a meeting with the Justice Minister, Helen McEntee on 31st August and despite acknowledgement of my letter on the 1st of September, and verbally saying she will set up a meeting in Meath, she has yet to respond to me in writing for this meeting.

"I have been informed that frontline Gardai in Navan have been told to attend work even though they were close contacts of a positive Covid case, and this is due to an increasing shortage of staff with up to half the station effected.

"Community Gardai in Navan who have been doing great work throughout this pandemic for the vulnerable have been told also that they must go back to regular duty to cover the shortages, the work they done collecting old peoples prescription’s and shopping etc has been widely accepted by the public and this needs to continue."

"Navan Garda Station has 81 Gardai, 11 sergeants and three inspectors. When you see that half of this staff is off due to Covid cases and the rest of staff are covering a population of 30,000 people in Navan, you realise how understaffed our force is in Meath.

"Frontline Gardai in Meath have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic and put themselves at huge risk and harm to make sure the public are safe, and now must work short staffed. They need to be vaccinated as a matter of urgency in line with all frontline staff.

"This situation shows the growing need for Minister McEntee to bring our Gardai numbers in line with the rest of the country and not have us at the lowest per head of population."

A statement from the Garda Press Office said that following a positive Covid-19 result of a member attached to Navan Garda station, the HSE Public Health team in consultation with An Garda Síochána determined that all members of An Garda Síochána, who at been at the station in the previous 48 hours would undergo a Covid-19 test irrespective of their contact status. All affected members self-isolated until covid-19 test results were received.

"An Garda Síochána continues to comply with HSE guidelines in respect of staff based on the determination as to whether they are close contacts or casual contacts.

"HSE guidelines, supported by internal An Garda Síochána Chief Medical Officer guidance, are routinely circulated to all staff members of An Garda Síochána. All members of An Garda Síochána are expected to fully comply with HSE guidelines."

The statement pointed out that since the start of the pandemic, the Gardai have not provided detail on the individual status of members of An Garda Síochána or individual Garda stations/ sections but would provide necessary information on service capability if/ where necessary.

"An Garda Síochána maintains effective operational resilience. Covid-19 has not impacted on front line Garda services at this time, although the current impact of Covid-19 is more significant at this time," according to the statement.

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