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Employers not facilitating remote working, union says

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Employers are asking their staff to work in-person when remote working could be facilitating, according to a trade union.

The Irish Examiner reports that Siptu has said many of its members have expressed concern after they were asked to report to their workplaces.

The union has reiterated its call for employers to facilitate working from home in line with current public health advice, adding that the majority had been “proactive” in allowing employees to do so.

“Employers need to put public health above all other concerns,” Siptu Public Administration and Community Division Organiser, Adrian Kane said.

“This means facilitating working from home wherever possible and keeping vital services intact by ensuring that safety plans are reviewed in light of the increased transmissibility of the new strains of the virus.”

Essential worker

Covid vaccine

Covid-19 vaccination clinics cancelled at Dublin h…

Mr Kane added that there needed to be “a coherent approach” in determining who was considered an essential worker amid a Covid-19 vaccine roll-out.

“Obviously, health workers must be the first in line,” he said.

“However, many other workers also have legitimate reasons why they should be classified as ‘essential workers’ and given priority access to the vaccine.

“These include workers in sectors such as education, pharmaceutical production, meat and food processing, local authorities, retail and transport.”

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Ireland

Gardaí install checkpoints on non-essential airport travel in new operation

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Gardaí stopped vehicles making their way to several airports across the country over the weekend, in a new operation that effectively extended domestic travel restrictions to international travellers.

The Irish Times reports that gardaí conducted Covid-19 checkpoints on the Dublin Airport campus and the roads approaching it.

Most vehicles travelling both to and from the airport were stopped and questioned, while some drivers were taken out of the lines of traffic for enforcement action.

Garda sources said the checkpoints were repeated at other airports and ports across Ireland. The force’s headquarters has warned that holidays abroad are not deemed an “essential” reason for travel amid current Covid-19 restrictions.

It comes as enforcement action to reduce non-essential travel within the Republic has soared since the introduction of €100 on-the-spot fines two weeks ago.

Almost 1,000 fines were issued over 12 days from Monday, January 11th up to last Friday.

Train stations

One major checkpoint was located at the bottom of the M1 close to the Port Tunnel. From 7am to 9pm, teams of gardaí spoke to three or four drivers at a time.

All drivers were spoken to except when large tailbacks built up and gardaí waved some vehicles through to ease the congestion.

Gardaí also carried out checks at major train stations, with passengers at Heuston Station in Dublin stopped before boarding their train and asked the purpose of their journey.

Gardaí have now warned that anyone taking a flight or ferry for a non-essential reason can be fined in the same way people travelling further than 5km from home have been sanctioned under the “on-the-spot fines”.

Holidays abroad are not deemed essential

“Gardaí at Dublin Airport are enforcing the 5km from home travel limit. Essential travel restrictions apply to flights from Dublin Airport. Holidays abroad are not deemed essential,” Garda Headquarters in Dublin said of the new operation.

“Various checks on public health regulations at ports and airports [on the spot fines] can be issued for non-essential travel, including non-essential international travel.”

It comes as all international arrivals into the State are now required to produce proof of a negative PCR test for Covid-19 taken within the 72 hours prior to their arrival. Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to €2,500.

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Ireland

HSE chief says testing of close contacts could resume this week

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Testing of close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases could resume this week, the head of the HSE has said.

Paul Reid said wider community testing can resume if there are several days in a row where the country has fewer than 2,000 cases confirmed per day.

1,378 new cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday evening, the lowest number reported this month.

It was the second day in a row where the number of cases fell below 2,000.

The surge in cases during late December and early January meant the HSE and NPHET decided to halt testing of close contacts so the testing system could focus on people with symptoms. 

On today’s Newstalk Breakfast, however, Mr Reid said they want to get back to testing all those close contacts as soon as possible.

Critical care

He said: “Thankfully, we saw yesterday again below 2,000 cases. If we start to see that as a trend for the next few days, we will be very anxious to get back testing all close contacts.

“Later this week, if we get a consistent level below 2,000 each day this week… we want to get there as quickly as possible.”

Mr Reid said there remains a ‘significant challenge’ in the hospital system, but the decisions made by critical care teams to manage care has ‘saved lives’.

He said: “We’ve 25 ICU beds available on a national level. If we get to the 345 beds – which we now have open on our surge plan… it gets to the point that providing the levels of care want to do and always try to do becomes higher risk.”

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Man released without charge after seizure of gun and cannabis worth €2,000

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A man has been released without charge in Cork, after the seizure of a suspected gun and €2,000 worth of cannabis.

The discovery was made yesterday at around 5pm after the search of a home in the Cloyne area.

A man in his 30s was arrested at the scene and taken to Middleton Garda Station.

He has since been released without charge and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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