Hotline for reporting Covid breaches ‘a beacon for lunatics’

No plans to keep Donegal in lockdown from Monday, Dr Ronan Glynn says

A Garda checkpoint at Dublin Airport as Covid restrictions continue to be enforced. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

A Garda checkpoint at Dublin Airport as Covid restrictions continue to be enforced. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

 

A new Garda hotline established for tip-offs from the public in Co Donegal about Covid-19 regulation breaches has already experienced a high volume of calls, Garda sources said.

However, while the number of calls had been especially high on Tuesday, the volume of tip offs on Wednesday was lower and not all of the calls related to Donegal.

“We’ve had people from all counties calling to alert us to things, so it seems the message wasn’t clear enough that this was only for Donegal,” said one source.

Another added that while many calls were genuine tip-offs from members of the public there had also been a noted number of “crank” and “conspiracy theory” calls. One source said the hotline had acted as “a beacon for lunatics and loonies”.

“People who are genuinely concerned about breaches of the regulations have been calling but a lot of it would be about fairly difficult situations to police now that the restrictions have been relaxed,” a Garda member told The Irish Times in reference to, for example, crowded public places.

The confidential dedicated hotline for tips about parties and other gatherings in contravention of Covid-19 regulations began operating on Tuesday. It was introduced after chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, pointed out the rate of the virus in parts of Donegal was much higher than nationally.

In response to queries Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, declined to comment on the number of calls received to the hotline on Tuesday and Wednesday. It said “anybody who becomes aware of a party or other event that is being organised or who knows that a party or other event is taking place” should phone the hotline.

‘Pushing boundaries’

The deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said there are no plans to keep Co Donegal in lockdown from Monday.But he appealed to those “pushing the boundaries” to stop and to follow public-health advice.

“It will not take much for the incidence to fall pretty rapidly in Donegal. This is not about threatening local lockdowns or local restrictions. I particularly don’t want to go back there because it’s the last things businesses want to hear,” he said.

Dr Anthony Breslin, director of public health, HSE North West, said one outbreak of 84 infections of the virus came as a result of people gathering at a wake.

A further 32 cases of Covid came from one infected person who caught the virus at a family gathering and who then went to work while still awaiting the result of a Covid test.

And another 19 cases spread among a group of younger people who had gathered for an 18th birthday party.

Dr Glynn stressed that if people were going to meet in any situation that they at least meet outdoors in the coming weeks as the virus had a much-reduced chance of spreading this way.