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Anger over axed tests after 300 gardai forced to isolate at home

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Gardai at a virus checkpoint

Gardai at a virus checkpoint

CollinsPhotoAgency

Gardai at a virus checkpoint

Three-hundred frontline gardai have been forced to go into self-isolation since the coronavirus pandemic began, the Herald can reveal.

There have been eight confirmed cases of rank-and-file gardai contracting the virus, but no reports of deaths, according to the Garda Representative Association (GRA). Fifteen officers are awaiting testing.

The revelation comes after garda representative bodies criticised the decision that frontline officers will not be given priority Covid-19 testing despite being coughed on or spat at on at least 52 occasions.

The Herald revealed last month that gardai were in the advanced stages of setting up four special testing centres for members of the force and other frontline emergency personnel.

Collapsed

Garda members who have paramedic training were expected to administer the swab sampling at the centres, but this scheme has now "collapsed".

Staff associations were told on Wednesday evening that a clinical governance issue with the HSE meant the move was being abandoned.

"We have been pressing this matter from an early stage of the crisis and were assured week after week that measures were being implemented," said GRA president Jim Mulligan.

"Then we discover that after having trained garda members with medical experience to take samples, the National Public Health Emergency Team, Nphet, have scuppered garda plans.

"It is difficult to make sense of how there could be a governance issue around priority testing for gardai when there was none around other frontline workers such as medical staff and ambulance workers.

"During this crisis, we have seen 45 gardai go into self-isolation in one division, and a whole unit was stood down in Dublin recently, albeit temporarily."

That unit was based at Mountjoy Garda Station, while 45 officers had to go into isolation in Meath/Westmeath.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) said it is "deeply disappointed" at the decision after management had told the Policy Auth- ority on April 20 that there would be priority testing.

The AGSI said it was not in a position to provide figures on members who have contracted Covid-19 as it has not received them.