Officials must step up workplace training and inspections to prevent ongoing coronavirus outbreaks, according to an infectious disease specialist.
It comes after 85 new cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday – the highest figure since late May.
18 of the cases reported today are part of an outbreak at a factory in County Kildare. Some of the factory’s workers are living in direct provision centres.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Jack Lambert, Professor in Infectious Diseases at the Mater Hospital, said the Government needs to more to halt the spread of the virus in workplaces.
“This most recent one is an example of the type of cluster that occurred in the last couple of months,” he said. “The rural meat-packing-like environment and Direct Provision type situations.”
“There are going to continue to be clusters in crèches and building sites – unless we actually put together some very strict education and training and inspections on an ongoing basis, this is to be expected.
“We can’t just sit and watch the numbers go up and down and up and down and make decisions based on that. We have to ask why they are happening and start making some interventions to prevent them from happening.
“Because we do have to move on and it is not fair to say to the publicans etc. that as long as we keep going up and down, we are not going to open up.”
He said arguments over things like foreign travel have got in the way of the real issues in recent weeks – with over 85% of all cases coming from Irish to Irish transmission.
“It is not due to [foreign travel],” he said.”
“We do need to put out some messages on foreign travel but the elephant in the room is Irish-to-Irish spreads. We need to really focus on that.”
He said the Government should focus on education and training for the types of places that have seen clusters in the past.
“We are two months past the surge now,” he said. “The worst of the worst in the hospitals was two months ago. What has been done in the community in those two months to minimise spread of the virus?
“We have seen another outbreak similar to the one in meatpacking we had a couple of months ago so I just think we need to redouble our efforts.
“We need to go to all those sites and inspect them. This has happened before and they are obviously not doing all the things they need to in terms of COVID-prevention.”
He also warned that “don’t have the skill-set” to train their own employees in COVID prevention measures and need a “lot of support” to ensure they are following the correct measures.
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Main image is a file photo of a worker in a factory, 30-04-2020. Image: Mohamed Krit/ SIPA USA