BREAKING: Limerick councillors’ Covid fears in Rathkeale due to influx from Europe

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Email:

donal.oregan@limerickleader.ie

BREAKING:  Limerick councillors’ Covid fears in Rathkeale due to influx from Europe

Cllr Emmett O'Brien: 'We cannot simply sit back and wait for the onslaught we know is coming'

TWO Limerick councillors have expressed their fears over a large group travelling from the Czech Republic to Rathkeale over the coming days.

Cllrs Emmett O’Brien and Adam Teskey say they have both been made aware of dozens of people making their way to Ireland.

Cllr O’Brien said: "The town of Rathkeale and surrounding communities, of which I’m a county councillor, are facing an impending and immediate threat from Covid from over 50 people, some of whom are infected, travelling from Prague."

The practising barrister said it is "high time to recall the Dail and pass emergency legislation to stop a likely huge Covid outbreak in Rathkeale and a potential lockdown of County Limerick".

It is understood the people in question are from Rathkeale, left during the summer for the continent and are now returning home.

Cllr O’Brien said if the infected people are unwilling to self isolate then the "appropriate action must be taken with immediate effect to ensure they self-isolate or alternatively stop them in port when they arrive by sea from France".

"No one wants another lockdown. Will we only take action when we have people here in Rathkeale testing positive? It will be too late then. If immediate action isn’t taken God knows what the consequences will be when all the people coming from Prague arrive in Rathkeale," said Cllr O’Brien, who adds that the Public Health verbal response to him on Monday was that they "can't do anything until we have people here in Rathkeale testing positive".

By then it will be too late, said the Independent councillor. 

"It will be a classic case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. If this is allowed to happen we will have many unnecessary Covid casualties. We cannot simply sit back and wait for the onslaught we know is coming. 

"We are hugely concerned that Rathkeale will become the Lombardy of Ireland and that the easiest option for Public Health here is to let it happen and deal with it then. That is too late for us. We feel like sitting ducks,” said Cllr O’Brien, who also asked, “Where are our two government ministers?"

Cllr Teskey said he is aware of people’s concerns in relation to this (those coming from the Czech Republic). 

"I have exhausted all avenues available to me in bringing this issue to the notice of the relevant departments and bodies - An Garda Siochana, ministerial level, council at executive level and the HSE.

"This is not going to be confined just to Rathkeale. This is going to be a problem that will affect many communities in County Limerick. The government needs to take prudent and proper action and demonstrate proper leadership when it comes to safeguarding local people," said Cllr Teskey.

The councillor said the "government has failed and are continuing to fail regarding people coming though our ports and airports - are they being tested?"

In relation to those returning to Limerick, Cllr Teskey said he would like to see them being tested when they arrive on these shores.

"We have field hospitals, we have sites put in place like City West. We have been arranging this for quite some time since the outbreak began. Are these facilities being fully utilised - if not why not? 

"There has to be a public buy-in, in particular, to the people who are travelling from abroad and more importantly that are knowingly travelling with Covid," said Cllr Teskey.

The Fine Gael councillor said he knows first hand from the town of Rathkeale, which he represents, that all businesses are doing their very level best at implementing social distancing and sanitising measures upon entry and exit of their premises.

Following a query from the Limerick Leader, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said under the Infectious Diseases Regulations 1981, any person who has concerns about a case or a suspected case of an infectious disease such as Covid-19 should bring this to the attention of the local Department of Public Health in the HSE, contact details available at https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/5/publichealth/publichealthdepts/  

"The Department does not comment on individual statements but can clarify the public health measures applying to international travel. The government’s full advice on travel in the context of Covid-19 is published at https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/75d92-covid-19-travel-advice/

"Passengers arriving to Ireland from overseas are legally required to complete a Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form. The form may be used for the purpose of contact tracing in the event that there is a suspected or confirmed case on board a flight or ferry. 

"On August 26, a new version of the form was launched which will support the targeting of key public health messages to passengers arriving from overseas. Included in our messaging to passengers is information on how to access medical assistance in Ireland if you experience symptoms of COVID-19," said the spokesperson.

"Separately, the public health advice for passengers arriving to Ireland from locations that have not been included on the 'green list' is to restrict movements for 14 days," they concluded.