Covid-19: Builders asked to limit work to avoid delayed reopening

Industry group says builders adhering to rules except for essential and exempted work

Construction industry representatives are advising builders to limit work to projects permitted under Level Five lockdown restrictions or specifically approved work so the sector’s reopening is not delayed.

Construction sites have been closed for several weeks with limited exceptions for essential health and school building work, key infrastructural projects and social housing.

There have been reports around the country of construction works taking place on private housing sites.

Gardaí in Co Kerry said they had been dealing with “regular” reports of construction activity, particularly in the south of the county, on one-off housing, extensions, hotels and other commercial developments.


In some cases, reports have been made by neighbours about breaches of the Health Act which, under current regulations, shut down most construction work to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Tom Parlon, director general of the Construction Industry Federation, said that there "isn't much ambiguity" within the Government's regulations on the building work that is permitted.

“Our advice to our members is work on the projects that you are allowed and do not work on the other ones because it is only going to delay the reopening of the industry further,” he said.

Mr Parlon said that initially some construction work had been permitted such as the completion of work where foreign workers were in situ carrying out specific work.

He said he had also come across cases of frontline nurses requiring a house refurbishment to be completed so that they could return to live in their homes.

“Certainly there are individual cases where people have sought either local-authority approval or ministerial approval to finish a job,” he said.

The CIF chief said building work on private residential sites was “off limits” unless emergency work was required such as to protect work during the recent bad weather.

A Department of Housing spokesman said the only exemption for construction work on private houses ended on January 31st when people had to have building work completed if they had a home that was under construction when the Level 5 restrictions were introduced and could be occupied by that date.

Garda checks

A Garda spokesman aid it had continued to carry out checks on construction activity in support of public-health regulations.

He could not provide statistics on enforcement action taken against specific building sites or on the number of day-to-day checks on compliance with the regulations.

Killarney-based Garda Supt Flor Murphy said exemptions for construction sites included foreign direct investment (FDI) sites and large commercial developments such as breweries and depended on whether a dwelling was substantially begun or undergoing necessary repair work.

Several complaints had been made to the Garda in Co Kerry and a number are under investigation.

“We attend to all complaints,” said Supt Murphy.

The Government has not yet made a decision on the planned reopening of the construction sector as the National Public Health Emergency Team has expressed concerns about the movement of larger numbers of people if all construction sites are permitted to reopen.

Mr Parlon said that about 40 per cent of the construction industry was working, with construction permitted on major FDI projects, schools and hospitals.

He said that he was hopeful that the industry could be reopened in full when the Level Five restrictions are due to end on March 5th as the sector has been shown to be safe during January with practically no clusters of Covid-19 infections detected on building sites.

“Construction hasn’t been adding to the problem. In fact, sites are substantially safer than the community,” he said.