Donegal gardaí set up hotline for Covid breaches

Outbreaks have been linked to wakes, beach parties and birthday celebrations

Gardaí have urged Donegal residents to report breaches of Covid regulations using the new hotline. Photograph: iStock

Gardaí have urged Donegal residents to report breaches of Covid regulations using the new hotline. Photograph: iStock

 

Gardaí in Donegal have set up a dedicated hotline for tips about parties and other gatherings in contravention of Covid-19 regulations.

Incidence of the virus in the county has been almost continually above the national average since last September and stands at almost 300 cases per 100,000, compared to 127 nationally. In Milford, the incidence stands at 675 and in Letterkenny it is 600.

The latest figures from the Garda show Donegal residents are also receiving fines for Covid breaches at a far higher rate than the national average.

There have been 841 fines handed out in the county, or 528 per 100,000 people. The national average is 427 per 100,000 since the fines were first introduced.

Last week Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan met senior health officials and local Donegal politicians to discuss what measures should be taken.

“It is a concerning level of compliance compared to the rest of the country,” Dr Holohan said last week.

“The kind of things that even the dogs on the street in Donegal know shouldn’t be happening,” he added.

From today people in Donegal who spot potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations can contact a confidential Garda hotline based in Letterkenny Garda Station.

It is the first such hotline set up in the country.

“We’re appealing to anyone, if you’re aware of a party that is being organised ... we urge you to call this number. Let us know,” Garda Gráinne Doherty told local radio station Highland FM on Monday morning.

She said Covid-19 outbreaks have been linked to wakes, beach parties and birthday celebrations.

“The Covid-19 figures in Donegal remain a concern. Public health officials have reported that a number of Covid-19 outbreaks in Donegal have been linked to young people organising parties amongst themselves at various locations, and this also includes beach parties, birthday occasion parties being organised for all age groups, older secondary school pupils, and perhaps some younger secondary school pupils too, congregating socially, wakes being held in contravention of the guidelines and social gatherings being organised after funerals.

“To make it easier for people in Donegal to let us know about events they are aware of, we have set up a dedicated reporting line which will be based at Letterkenny Garda Station. This number will cover the entire division of Donegal.

People can report a gathering which they belief to be in contravention of public health guidelines by contacting 074 91 67101.

In a statement, the Garda said any information will be “treated with the strictest confidence” and callers will not be required to give their name if they do not wish to.

“Details provided will be checked out and if found to be correct appropriate action will be taken.”

It said if someone reports an event which has yet to take place “we will do everything we can to stop the event happening.

“We must emphasise that it is everyone’s responsibility to protect themselves and their families from the Covid-19 virus and the best way to do this is to comply with the Government guidelines.”