The incidence of Covid-19 outbreaks on building sites in Ireland during the pandemic has been "negligible", with "very low rates" of cases detected on the 40 per cent of sites that remained open since Christmas, Construction Industry Federation (CIF) director general Tom Parlon has said.
He also warned that workers in the industry were now leaving for Northern Ireland, the UK and continental Europe where sites remained open.
He asked the Government to provide a signal “before April 5th” about when construction would resume because the uncertainty was causing people to leave the country to look for work, he claimed.
"The HSE has been monitoring workplaces and in particular construction since last September and the amount of outbreaks in construction is negligible. "And since Christmas, with about 40 per cent of the industry back working, there's been very, very low rates. I think the highest was 39 cases in a week when we have 40,000 working, that's with the new variant," he told the RTÉ Radio 1 This Week programme on Sunday.
“Incredibly, Ireland is the only country in Europe, and in the world as far as I know, that has closed construction. It’s deemed to be safe. We have very good standard operating procedures, it’s largely outdoor and there’s a young workforce,” he said.
“The statistics back us up,” he said, and these had been made available to Nphet and the HSE who the CIF met, he said.
“We’re only talking about bringing an extra 40,000 back. In terms of mobility it’s a very small figure compared to what’s involved in bringing schools back,” he said.
There was also the loss in housing to be considered. “The figure that even the Minister for Housing has used is 800 per week. I’d say we’re heading for 7,000 to 8,000 and the danger is, with sites being closed down for 13 or 14 weeks, it is going to be slower to get things back up and running. There’s a danger we could lose out on 10,000 houses,” he said.
The Cabinet is set to shortly consider what changes to the current restrictions may be considered from April 5th.
The CIF is lobbying hard for a reopening of construction and has written to TDs claiming that the “Government is being blamed” for the ongoing closure of the sector.
However, the plateauing in the decline in case numbers have prompted concern.
Under current restrictions only social housing projects nearing completion and some essential projects are permitted.