The Garda Commissioner has said he does not expect officers to need to use their powers to detain people who refuse to self-isolate due to the coronavirus.
The classification of COVID-19 as a notifiable disease gives gardaí the power to seal off areas and detain people if they refuse to quarantine themselves.
"Very extreme scenario"
Speaking in Louth this afternoon, Drew Harris said the powers are there to protect the public - but would only ever be used in a “very extreme scenario.”
“We have seen the situation arise in other jurisdictions and, one can expect, if we are in a such a situation that we may have to apply enforcement powers, that is backed up with present legislation and that would be an An Garda Síochána function to do that,” he said.
“But that is an extreme scenario – a very extreme scenario – and we don’t envisage that in the immediate future.”
He said the force has been working to ensure it can maintain its current level of service regardless of what happens in the coming weeks.
He said officers were used to dealing with the threat of infectious diseases.
“We have to cope even at the moment with the scenario of people being in our custody who may have infectious diseases,” he said.
“We have a regime of deep clean that we would use in terms of ourselves, our station and indeed our vehicles.
“So that is something we are familiar with and we would use that.
“We don’t envisage that stations are going to be closed for long periods of time because we are able to use deep clean.”
He said the HSE remains the lead agency in terms of responding to outbreak with gardaí on hand to offer support 24 hours a day seven days a week.
The HSE is urging anyone who has been to one of seven coronavirus-affected areas in the past two weeks and is experiencing symptoms of the virus to phone their local GP or Emergency Department without delay.
The symptoms are a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, fever (high temperature).
If you are feeling well, you are advised to carry on with your normal routine.
People are urged to contact the HSE on 1850 24 1850 if they think they have been in contact with a coronavirus patient or if they were at a healthcare facility in another country where coronavirus patients are being treated.
Health officials say there is no need for masks or gloves.
The best way to protect yourself from the virus is to:
- Wash your hands properly and often
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
- Put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Avoid close contact with people who are not well.
Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.