Dublin outbreak is first significant Covid-19 cluster on a building site

Work at site in capital closes after 20 workers test positive for coronavirus

A coronavirus outbreak on a construction site in Dublin city centre is the first significant Covid-19 cluster on a building site during the pandemic, the State’s highest ranking public health official has said.

The State's acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said that the outbreak was the "first significant cluster on a construction site to date" during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There had been more than 20 cases identified with the outbreak and that a number of other workers on the building site have been tested and were awaiting results.

Speaking at the National Public Health Emergency Team briefing, Dr Glynn referred to the building site outbreak to urge employers across the construction industry and other workplaces to look at their health and safety protocols to avoid the spread of the virus.

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The construction site in central Dublin was closed down temporarily on Monday after building workers tested positive for coronavirus.

The building company, John Paul Construction, said initially one employee had been found to have contracted the coronavirus but following testing it has been confirmed that others were also affected.

The site involved is understood to be a hotel and apartment complex at Townsend Street in Dublin City centre.

In the statement, John Paul Construction said: “Following confirmation that a staff member on one of our construction sites in Dublin had tested positive for Covid-19, comprehensive testing has identified a number of additional positive cases.

"We have followed the specific advice of the HSE and the Health and Safety Authority at all times in relation to this matter and are assisting the HSE in arranging further tests as required. We have temporarily closed the site as advised by the HSE."

The company said the health, safety and wellbeing of it workers and the communities in which it operated was its top priority “and we wish those affected a speedy recovery”.

Meanwhile a Labour Party councillor has called for testing for Covid-19 to be made available to local residents living near the building site .

Kevin Donoghue, who represents Dublin south east inner city, said workers on the construction project "would have been using shops locally during breaks etc and we need to be ready to test local residents who might be impacted by this".

“Measures should be put in place to allow all residents in the area who are concerned to get tested immediately.”

The Construction Industry Federation said the "robust standard operating procedure and tracing systems, agreed by Government, industry and unions" were working .

“The system is evidently identifying cases of people with Covid-19 and identifying any close contacts and then requesting that they self-isolate. Before these systems were in place, anyone with Covid-19 could have been travelling between communities and work unbeknownst that they were potentially spreading infection. “

It said its message to people in the construction sector was to redouble their efforts to focus on hand hygiene and social distancing and follow the standard operating procedure rigorously.

“If it is not safe, stop and identify any issue to a Covid Compliance officer so action can be taken. These measures are still the most effective way to ensure Covid-19 stays out of construction sites. “

The CIF is also calling on its members and the wider industry continue to follow the SOP rigorously and encourage their employees to follow hygiene guidelines and obey social distancing protocols at home, at work; and in the community particularly as we approach builders’ holidays to ensure Covid-19 is not unknowingly introduced onto construction sites.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times