‘Significant pressure’ as about 1,600 garda members absent due to Covid-19
‘Supreme effort’ made to ensure force can continue with duties, Garda Commissioner says
Hundreds of on-the-spot fines were issued to people in breach of Covid-19 regulations over the last week. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty
It is of “significant concern” that about 10 per cent of garda members are currently unable to work due to Covid-19, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said.
While the force is “coping”, Mr Harris said, the absence of between 1,500 and 1,600 workers due to the virus is putting “significant pressure” on resources.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One News, Mr Harris said all possible resources have been mobilised for frontline duties and a “supreme effort” is being made to ensure the force can continue to carry out its duties.
Mr Harris said he believes the impact of Covid-19 infections on garda members has “turned a corner”, and he is hopeful the situation will improve over the coming weeks.
“Our members and civilian colleagues are returning to work, but it is an additional pressure. It is a significant pressure and a significant concern, but we hope that things will improve over the next two weeks,” he said.
The policing of Covid-19 restrictions is also adding to the pressures on stretched resources, Mr Harris said. These duties are in addition to an upsurge in domestic violent calls and the continued activities of organised crime gangs, he said.
More than 400 on-the-spot fines were issued to people in breach of Covid-19 regulations over the last week. People who do not abide by restrictions on all but essential travel must face the “real prospect of enforcement-type activity”, Mr Harris warned.
“We are now into the third wave, which has proved to be the worst wave yet. This is properly a national emergency. We still find people after 10 months of being in this pandemic not complying with the regulations which are there to protect us all,” he said.
Gardaí on the ground have discretion and deal with each situation in front of them, he said, adding that each fixed-charge penalty notice issued has been “appropriate”.
He said gardaí continue to follow the “Four Es” policy, where they engage, educate, encourage, and, as a last resort, enforce.
While the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has called on the Government to “reconsider” the position of gardaí on the vaccine priority list, Mr Harris said he “wouldn’t want to step outside” the rollout plan. He said garda members will “take our place in the queue as appropriate”.