Last week, I wrote to Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan asking what measures had been put in place to prevent Covid19 in Direct Provision Centres and in prisons.
Having previously published a brief list of actions being taken, on Friday the Department of Justice updated this guidance in regard to prisons, including amending the criteria for considering Temporary Release and increased access to enhanced remission arrangements of up to 33% for lower risk prisoners. All of this is welcome.
However, no update was given about Direct Provision Centres.
I am particularly concerned about direct provision as many centres will have over a hundred people living in close quarters, often sharing cooking and other facilities. The risks are both clear and substantial.
On Monday 23rd, RTE and Irish Times both carried reports of people in DP testing positive for coronavirus, with one clinician in quoted in the Irish Times referring to Direct Provision Centres as a “powder keg” for coronavirus.
Later that evening, the Department published an update of its plans for Direct Provision centres.
They say that each Direct Provisions centre is being asked to draw up contingency plans, including self-isolation areas. Other actions being taken include staggered mealtimes and a ban on visitors.
Again, I’m concerned that the measures are insufficient.
We need assurances that the HSE has had the opportunity to examine each of Direct Provision centre plan to ensure its plans are effective.
If the HSE determines that it is not possible to provide adequate social distancing within a Direct Provision Centre, the Department must clarify what further measures will be taken.