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*Photograph: John Mangan

An outbreak of COVID-19 at a Clare Direct Provision Centre has underlined the inability of the Government to learn from their mistakes during the pandemic, a Clare TD has declared.

As first reported by The Clare Echo, all residents of the Direct Provision Centre at The Clare Lodge in Ennis have been sent to Dublin where they are now in quarantine. 26 of the 37 residents are said to have tested positive for the virus while nine of the eleven staff at the Centre have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Sources have told The Clare Echo that not all residents or staff were informed of the first case and subsequently some close contacts continued to work and travel around the county heightening the risk of transmission.

This outbreak is the biggest to occur in the county since the major nationwide spike of cases in January of this year. County cases have not been provided in the past week due to the cyber attack on the HSE’s IT systems. Latest data from the Department of Health on Thursday noted that 469 new cases nationally.

In a statement, Clare TD, Michael McNamara (IND) believed the State had failed when it came to protecting settings including nursing homes and Direct Provision Centres during the pandemic. “While the general population has made huge sacrifices, it is clear that no lessons have been learned by the State in the 12 months since the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response first raised issues around congregated settings”.

Deputy McNamara added, “The State has failed to come to grips with the challenge posed, in particular in direct provision centres – and in nursing homes which again bore the brunt of deaths in 2021. There has been a particular failure to use antigen testing in these settings”.

A spokesman for the Department of Public Health Mid-West said they were unable to comment on individual cases or outbreaks as it would breach confidentiality to individuals or organisations as an ethical requirement for the HSE but also as a legal requirement under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Acts 1988-2018.

When an outbreak occurs among vulnerable populations, the Department said their team led by a specialist in public health medicine “works closely with all relevant individuals and bodies to investigate the circumstances of the detected case, to carry out a swift Public Health Risk Assessment, and to offer prompt Public Health advice, in order to minimise the impact or spread of COVID-19 in a setting.

“Depending on the risk assessment, a number of preventative and safety measures might be implemented, including cohorting and exclusion of positive cases, transfer to alternative, isolated accommodation, and to offer screening to partial or whole settings to determine the extent of a COVID-19 situation”.

International evidence highlights that there is a high risk of infection in socially marginalised and vulnerable communities and groups including those living in congregate accommodation. “Where there is social deprivation, ability for individuals to prioritise public health guidelines is limited, due to a number of factors, including household overcrowding, low income, and employment instability and insecurity,” the spokesperson told The Clare Echo.

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